President Cyril Ramaphosa has defended Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan’s appeal against a court ruling exempting hospitals, clinics, schools and police stations from load shedding, saying the appeal aimed to shed light on the impracticalities of implementing the directive.
PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa has defended Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan’s appeal against a court ruling exempting hospitals, clinics, schools and police stations from load shedding, saying the appeal aimed to shed light on the impracticalities of implementing the directive.
Ramaphosa, who was answering oral questions in Parliament on Thursday, said while they noted the judgment, they needed to deal with the reality of reducing the severity of load shedding.
“The view that we, as government, have taken is that we do need to deal with the practicality of that decision, because the whole process of load shedding is really to manage the grid.
When a number of units are not available to generate energy, you could be tempted to drive those remaining units and you could drive them to a point of breakdown,” Ramaphosa said.
He said the engineers had told him that load shedding was implemented to avoid the collapse of the grid.
“Load shedding is the last resort. As much as we want electricity … for everybody, all at one go, it is just not practical, engineering-wise. Ideally, I would want all those hospitals, and schools to be exempt, but from an engineering point of view, I am told that it is practically impossible.
“The appeal process is to bring a better understanding of the engineering aspect and impracticality,” said Ramaphosa.
The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria recently gave Gordhan 60 days to ensure uninterrupted electricity supply to 85 police stations, 93 hospitals, and 23,000 schools badly affected by load shedding.
In cases where sites could not be isolated from the grid to exempt them, arrangements must be made for alternative power supply to these government institutions, such as generators, the court ordered.
The government has also been accused of being insensitive to the plight of South Africans, especially those in desperate need of lifesaving machines in hospitals, while ministers and their deputies enjoyed uninterrupted power supply.
But Ramaphosa maintained that the appeal was not being done in an “arrogant way, in a way which we want to second guess the court”.
“It is actually being done to ensure that we save the grid,” said Ramaphosa.
Asked if a safety and security plan was in place in the event of a total grid collapse, Ramaphosa said: “Through the national security council, this government looks at a number of security threats that face our country, and indeed the electricity matter is one of those. We continue to look at various options and scenarios and when those events eventuate and are near to eventuating, South Africans will be the first to know.
“The efforts we are putting in place are the types of efforts that will bear fruit. We do look at all scenarios,” said Ramaphosa.
Meanwhile, opposition parties have raised questions about why Eskom’s acting CEO Calib Cassim is on a business trip with Gordhan in China amid Stage 6 load shedding.
Eskom said details of the business trip will be divulged next week.
“The acting group chief executive is on a business trip with the minister and the details of the trip may only be communicated when he is back next week,” Eskom said.