Premier notes North Gauteng High Court judgment, concerned over practicalities
Media release: Premier notes North Gauteng High Court judgment
Premier Alan Winde has noted the North Gauteng High Court ruling handed down last week that states healthcare facilities, public schools, and police stations should be spared from loadshedding. He said, “I understand the rationale of the judgment: trying to keep basic services going during loadshedding, but the practicality of this is unfortunately impossible. You would need to build dedicated feeders for every school, police station, and hospital which would be very costly, or take those networks out of the schedules and increase loadshedding for the remaining areas. Providing these installations with standby generators would also be very expensive and I'm not sure who is expected to pay for this, given that these installations are in both Eskom and municipal-supplied areas. The Western Cape Government (WCG), however, wholeheartedly agrees with the court that power blackouts impact prejudicially on the constitutional rights of all South Africans.”
The WCG is already taking steps to protect key service delivery in the areas of healthcare and education:
- The Provincial Health and Wellness Department will be installing hybrid inverters in every rural primary health care facility over two phases and solar panels at 15 hospitals until March 2024.
- The Western Cape Department of Education will spend R40 million this year to promote energy efficiency at its schools. This includes the installation of LED lighting at 50 schools so far, which helps cut electricity costs. The Department is also undertaking to install solar PV systems at 10 schools, generating up to 60 kilowatts peak depending on the size of the school and installation.
- More than R88 million in emergency funding was also released for the purchase of generators which will be distributed across numerous municipalities in the province. This is to support vital municipal infrastructure and services
These initiatives to protect the delivery of critical services to communities in spite of chronic blackouts, demonstrate the provincial government’s deep commitment to its citizens.
In referring to the judgment the Premier added, “Eskom itself pointed out the dire situation with their operations, setting out in great detail the disastrous political decisions responsible for our present situation, and even conceded in their submissions to the court that rolling blackouts cause human suffering and has a detrimental impact on citizens’ fundamental human rights. This stands in stark contrast to the President’s submission to the court that “none of the Government respondents have a Constitutional responsibility to supply electricity to the people of the republic”. This displays a shocking lack of understanding that a reliable supply of electricity underpins almost every fundamental right enshrined in our Constitution as has already been confirmed by the Constitutional Court, even though it is not itself described as a fundamental right in our Constitution.”
In a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa sent in January, Premier Winde detailed the devastating effects electricity disruptions are having on various aspects of our citizens’ lives and the economy. He said, “While our provincial government has taken a number of urgent steps to support municipalities in sourcing diesel generators to maintain operations at critical infrastructure points, it is not a sustainable alternative due to exorbitant capital, running, and maintenance costs. In short, basic service delivery in this province, as I am sure in other provinces as well, is under severe threat.”
Pointing to the recent high court judgment, The Premier reiterated, “The question remains, though: who will pay for the massive expansion of grid capacity and emergency measures desperately needed to ensure critical services are safeguarded from loadshedding? The cost implications are significant. Funds should be coming from national government to provinces and municipalities to support this investment.”