Blame game won't help

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

By Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown

One would be hard pressed to find a South African who does not have an opinion on the current power challenges. Our democracy provides space for all to make their voices heard, and countless South Africans have strongly voiced their opinions on social networks, in the media and using other platforms.

Such robust debate is part and parcel of our democracy and is welcomed.  Nevertheless, there are times when the need for a nation to rise as one and work towards the greater good is paramount.

Now is not the time to point the finger of blame. Our national power supply is under pressure due to the need to perform vital maintenance. There is also a risk of unexpected breakdowns at some of our aging power stations. Unfortunately this perfect storm often necessitates the need for load shedding to stabilise the system.

We do not undertake load shedding lightly, however, there are times when this is the only option. Government is all too aware of the major disruptions and inconvenience that arise from unplanned electricity interruptions. We are very concerned about the impact on individuals and businesses which are the lifeblood of our economy. 

However, we dare not allow the current power challenges to define us. We are the country that emerged from the depths of Apartheid to form a nation built on the pillars of democracy and freedom for all. We are the nation which successfully hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup and confounded naysayers who predicted that we would fail.

All of South Africa’s many successes since 1994 have been built on our nation standing together as one. Together we can and will continue to overcome all odds. 

We ask citizens to bear with us in this trying time.  Government is working to secure South Africa’s future energy supply through an energy mix which comprises coal, solar, wind, hydro, gas and nuclear energy.

Many of these projects are already in the pipeline but getting them on stream will take time. We therefore call on South Africans to pull together and find creative ways to work around load shedding.

Households and businesses are encouraged to make provision for the fact that there will be at least two-hour power outages between 7am and 10pm daily for the next 18 of months.

In this pressing time every little bit helps, be it switching off geysers and pool pumps during the peak hours or forgoing the convenience of air conditioners.

Government is under no illusion that we are asking a lot from South Africans.  Nonetheless, we are all in this together, and only by pulling in one direction will we be able to overcome the short-term strain.  

South Africans should also know that government has the situation in hand and we have implemented measures to improve it. In the short term we continue to support the national grid through the more frequent use of diesel powered open-cycle gas turbines to help bridge the immediate gap between supply and demand. Work to reduce maintenance backlogs is on-going and will lead to improved performance of power plants and less frequent unplanned outages.

We are confident that through our collective determination we will be able to manage the current electricity supply challenge which affects everyone. This situation affects everyone and so we all need to stand up and be part of the solution.