/ 9 February 2023

Solidarity warns it will litigate if a state of disaster is announced at State of the Nation address

Eskom Holdings Soc Ltd. Financial Woes Cause Worst Pollution In 20 Years
Eskom told the Mail & Guardian it had only received a R9 billion World Bank loan to decommission its coal-fired Komati power station. (Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Solidarity warned President Cyril Ramaphosa against instituting a state of disaster over the energy crisis, ahead of his State of the Nation address (Sona) on Thursday evening. 

The trade union sent Ramaphosa a “cautionary note” that it would litigate if he announced a state of disaster in response to the electricity crunch, either during the address or at any other occasion. 

“A state of disaster is meant for a disaster, not for poor governance,” Connie Mulder, head of the Solidarity research institute, said in a statement.

The GOOD opposition party also called on the president to share his plan to “fix” troubled power utility Eskom and introduce the affordable implementation of a just energy transition to solar.

GOOD said South Africa had endured 193 000 minutes of load-shedding last year as Eskom strived to avoid a total collapse of the national grid due to power generation failing to meet demand.

“We need a short-term strategy to keep the lights on, and a medium-term strategy to sort out grid deficiencies, rapidly procure renewable energy and transition from our dependence on coal,” the opposition party wrote in a Twitter post ahead of Ramaphosa’s address in parliament.

The DA said it was time for the national government “to devolve energy, policing and rail” to local governments.

Shifting its attention away from the energy crisis, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) called on the government to “deal” with the August 2012 Marikana massacre and repeated its vow, on social media, to prevent Ramaphosa from delivering his speech.

Meanwhile, members of the executive, judiciary and legislature were tracking into the Cape Town City Hall, where the Sona was due to take place for the second consecutive year after a fire gutted parts of the parliament precinct in January 2022.

Former president Thabo Mbeki, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and former speaker of the National Assemble Baleka Mbete were among the 260 guests expected to attend, in addition to 490 members of parliament.

With a budget of R8 million — double that of the previous year — the full ceremony format of the event will take place, including the traditional Flame Guard, the 21-gun salute and an aircraft flypast. Some traditions were foregone last year because of the fire.

The budget also covers the Sona debate, the president’s response and the finance minister’s budget speech. 

In 2019, the budget was estimated at R2.5 million but the final cost was lower, at R1.6 million. The budget for Sona 2020 was estimated at R2.1 million. 

Holding a virtual Sona in 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic cost the country just  R208 000. Last year, Sona had a budget of R4 million and additional costs to cover the relocation to another venue and the replacement of branding which was burnt in the fire.