DA to challenge state of disaster in court to avoid ‘looting’ after lobbying for one to tackle energy crisis

The DA is going to court to challenge the declaration of a state of disaster over South Africa’s energy crisis to avert a potential “looting frenzy” as witnessed during the Covid-19 pandemic — even though the party previously said it wanted a state of disaster declared.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the state of disaster during his state of the nation address (Sona) on Thursday to “enable us to provide practical measures that we need to take to support businesses in the food production, storage and retail supply chain, including for the rollout of generators, solar panels and uninterrupted power supply”. 

DA leader John Steenhuisen said in response: “We have already briefed our lawyers to challenge the announcement in court.   

“South Africa has been down this road before. During the Covid-19 disaster, we saw the fatal flaws in the national state of disaster legislation which allows the ANC unfettered power to loot without any parliamentary oversight,” charged Steenhuisen. 

“The DA is already in court to declare the Disaster Management Act unconstitutional and we will do the same to prevent the ANC looting frenzy that will follow Ramaphosa’s [announcement]. 

Steenhuisen decried the “nonsensical and economically destructive regulations” imposed during the pandemic, coupled with the abuse of procurement processes.

Western Cape premier Alan Winde wrote to Ramaphosa last month requesting the declaration of a national state of disaster to “better manage the response to the load-shedding crisis”. 

Steenhuisen, in an address on November 23, called on Ramaphosa to declare a ring-fenced state of disaster around Eskom to reprioritise funding for diesel to keep Eskom’s open-cycle turbines running in the immediate term.

“But more importantly, a state of disaster will allow government to bypass its own self-imposed obstacles, bottlenecks and cost inflations in the form of unworkable labour legislation, localisation requirements, cadre deployment and preferential procurement. 

“These ANC policies lie at the heart of Eskom’s collapse and need to be set aside if the utility is to recover,” he said at the time. 

Winde said on Friday, in response to Sona, that “checks and balances” must be put in place as urgent steps are taken to address the energy crisis. He expressed disappointment that Ramaphosa did not: 

  • extend the exemption granted by the National Treasury to the City of Cape Town to buy back electricity from households and businesses to all competent municipalities;
  • aside from the announcement of a state of disaster, spell out how the Treasury will relax procurement regulations at all levels of government which will allow easier sourcing of energy-related products or services with rigorous oversight;
  • provide detail on improving and protecting the grid distribution network so energy can be easily fed into the grid by power producers to households and businesses; and
  • give a commitment that provinces taking steps to reduce electricity usage will be ring-fenced with an equivalent level of load-shedding.

“This can be achieved through detailed and practical steps on the national demand-side management initiative,” he said.

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Author: editor

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