As the country gears up for yet another State of the Nation Address (SONA) to be delivered by President Ramaphosa, the IFP holds very low expectations. We anticipate much the same as was promised year upon year, since he took office in 2018.
In truth, there is nothing that the President can say that will make any sense or carry any substance in the absence of a clear-cut energy strategy, with firm timelines and deliverables for consumers, business, and investors.
On Tuesday, 7 February 2023, South Africa recorded its 100th consecutive day of load-shedding, with the lights off every single day since 31 October 2022. According to the South African Reserve Bank, each day of load-shedding impacts the economy to the tune around R1 billion in losses.
It is apparent that every aspect of daily life and every sector that falls under the state relies – either directly or indirectly – on government being able to provide a reliable, stable energy grid.
Without access to affordable electricity, there is no point in talking about pie-in-the-sky projects and initiatives.
Education, health, water and sanitation, safety and security, and more, fall by the wayside. Children lose precious productive hours in the classroom, lives are placed at risk in our public healthcare facilities, homes and business are deprived not only of electricity, but also water supply, as load-shedding halts operations at pump stations… the list is endless. Our vulnerable women and children are left defenceless in the dark, and even police stations fall prey to opportunistic criminals under the cover of darkness.
The economy, too, has suffered.
Last year, President Ramaphosa highlighted the role of entrepreneurs and small businesses, and praised Mr Thando Makhubu, the founder of an ice-cream shop, the Soweto Creamery, whose business provides employment to four people.
Fast-forward to SONA 2023, and Mr Makhubu has found himself struggling to keep his business afloat due to the huge costs imposed by load-shedding. He is now forced to buy diesel to run a generator so as not to lose his stock and is no longer making a profit.
Mr Makhubu told Newzroom Afrika that if load-shedding continues, he will be forced to let all of his employees go and close the business.
Mr Makhubu is one of thousands of South Africans whose businesses are being strangled by load-shedding. Thousands more have already been forced to close, leaving many thousands of South Africans without employment.
Government has been promising a turn-around within the next 12 months, but one wonders if the already fragile economy can teeter on the precipice for another year. More worrying: without concrete plans and a timeline, paired with a dismal track-record, there are very few – if any – assurances that we will see light at the end of the very dark tunnel we find ourselves trapped in.
Mkhuleko Hlengwa MP
IFP National Spokesperson
071 111 0539