/ 28 February 2023

Hospitals exempt from load-shedding as new disaster regulations take effect

Strategies and active responses are needed to reverse the collapse of the health system, rights group Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) said this week. (Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Hospitals, harbours, railways, water treatment plants and other essential infrastructure will be exempted from load-shedding in terms of the national state of disaster regulations promulgated on Tuesday by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

The regulations were gazetted after meetings of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet and the president’s coordinating council (PCC) on Monday following the state of disaster he declared on 9 February.

They also exempt critical electronic communications and broadcasting infrastructure and — where feasible — food production and storage facilities from load-shedding and have taken immediate effect.

The regulations allow government departments to use emergency procurement procedures to add new energy sources and perform maintenance work on existing electricity infrastructure.

But accounting officers will have to report on emergency expenditure to both the auditor general and parliament, a move aimed at preventing a recurrence of the looting of Covid-19 emergency funding that took place during 2020 and 2021.

The regulations allow Eskom to import electricity from neighbouring countries, while the “wheeling” of electricity to allow third party networks to provide power will also be introduced in a bid to increase power generation.

All government departments will be compelled to introduce electricity saving measures and to install alternative energy sources at their facilities to ensure that the services they provide suffer less interruption.

Cabinet spokesperson Nomonde Mnukwa said the regulations were drafted with the understanding that South Africa “finds itself in uncharted waters where our constrained energy supply has moved beyond an inconvenience to impact livelihoods and jeopardises our economic advances”.

Mnukwa said the regulations were aimed at minimising the effect of load-shedding on service delivery and on people’s lives and livelihoods and at protecting infrastructure while developing the capacity to generate sufficient energy in the longer term.

This included improving Eskom’s plant performance and providing measures to enable the connection of new sources of electricity to the national grid.

All electricity installations and upgrades would be exempt from the terms of the National Environmental Management Act and land use regulations to speed up the process of bringing new generation capacity online.

Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele said the regulations were the result of “extensive consultations” and represented “the best available options appropriate to the situation the country finds itself in and within the limited available resources available to address our energy challenges”.

A court challenge to the legality of the declaration of the state of disaster by groups including the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse is set to be heard this week.