by Jay-Dee

Businesses and civil organisations must demand government to allow for urgent production of privately produced power as South Africa’s (SA’s) most vulnerable suffer and small businesses tank in droves. So says a youth development group in light of experts predicting dark days for SA.

This is in light of unprecedented uncertainty over the government’s role in providing power for the nation. While a new ministry is being set up to deal with the electricity crisis, questions are being raised whether the government has the capacity to deal with the country’s growing power supply needs on its own without massive input from the private sector.

Public private partnerships have already been proposed to the government for years to no avail, Afrika Tikkun Group (AT) laments. The organisation is calling on all SA civilians to stand up and play their part in bringing the country back to its feet and calls on the government to expedite the process of allowing private companies to generate and distribute electricity using Eskom transmission infrastructure.

Over the last few months SA has been plunged into a dark uncertain reality, not only are power cuts debilitating businesses, workers and civic organisations but they are impacting charities and non-profit organisations who are struggling to sustain their operations due to increasingly cantankerous load shedding schedules leaving thousands without enough food to eat.

“We are a country that has become too comfortable with simply voicing dissatisfaction with no plan of action. That form of complacent dissent will no longer be enough to inspire real action,” urges Marc Lubner, Group CEO at Afrika Tikkun, an organisation developing young people from underprivileged communities from Cradle to Career.

“All sectors of the economy affected by load shedding must unite against complacency both in government and private business. If schools and charities are unable to do their work in educating youth and building communities because of their reliance on the national grid, business communities need to stand up and take ownership of their moral right to be part of the solution.”

The SA economy loses an estimated R4 billion a day, this has crippling consequences for small businesses which make up 40% of the country’s economy with approximately eight million people directly reliant on these enterprises for income.

“Township residents cannot afford solar panels or generators, so they live in darkness, which effects their well-being and productivity. Many young people have lost faith in the system when more jobs are lost as a result of small businesses having to close, unemployment rises, and law and order is replaced by survival,” says Lubner.

Government has pertinent questions to answer, and civil society must demand a response when it comes to the slow rollout of plans by Eskom to restore the national grid to its former glory, Lubner says.

  1. Why won’t our government adopt a combination of coal powered (base load) and renewables funded by the private sector?  

South Africa adds one GigaWatt (GW) of roof-top solar power to its grid every year. This is commendable, but just not good enough for a country in crisis. We have already demonstrated that we have potential to endow the grid with a diversified renewable energy mix which includes solar power, wind power and hydroelectricity.

  1. Why are there few strategic public / private partnerships that can fund or operate a new world in SA, where labour have the required skills?

It appears governance and resource management are the country’s Achilles heel regarding major projects that require multiple sectors to work together.

  1. Why, despite most private residents having paid their utility bills, have so many municipalities not paid their obligation to Eskom? What happened to this money, and why did Eskom permit such a significant debt to accumulate?
  2. What will the new electricity ministry contribute to the government’s efforts to end load shedding? We believe as much as there are justified reservations voiced by the public about passing the buck to yet another government entity to deal with Eskom, citizens need to see a concerted effort by the government to drastically improve electricity generation, transmission and distribution capacity.

Government must seek help from the private sector

Good leaders know when to seek support as asking for help takes great courage and wisdom. Why then does our political leadership not support public-private partnerships where private businesses manage existing facilities and provide funding for brand-new ones?

Decarbonisation initiatives that encourage the creation of clean energy have availed a fortune of financial resources for countries like South Africa to fund to access. These funds, which are akin to sovereign loans, might also be utilised to train present coal-dependent workers in modern job skills for the clean energy sector.

More partnerships with private companies to make the grid work for South African residents is a promising solution. “I implore the Government to work together with us. We all have something to lose. Let us not sit back and watch as our beloved country burns in front of us,” concludes Lubner.

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