President Cyril Ramaphosa said in response to Parliamentary questions that “the end should be in sight soon” for load-shedding, with its severity reducing in the short term.
Ramaphosa said that the Electricity Minister, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, is “overseeing the full and speedy implementation of the Energy Action Plan (EAP)” to tackle load-shedding.
The minister is working hard to reduce the severity and frequency of load-shedding immediately and ensure that load-shedding will be “brought to an end in the shortest possible time”.
Ramokgopa will focus on improving the performance of Eskom’s existing generation fleet to maximise its performance and output, according to the President.
The minister will also reduce demand by implementing an aggressive demand-side management programme.
Few details were given as to how the minister will achieve this. Eskom has a plan to use smart meters to force people to switch off their geysers and home appliances. However, implementation is easier said than done.
Labour, the private sector, and the government are cooperating with the minister to reduce load-shedding and have pledged support for plans to end load-shedding.
“A great deal of work is being done in this regard even though we are going through a challenging period”, Ramaphosa said. “The end should be in sight soon”, as all these efforts bear fruit.
A history of empty promises
The South African government and Eskom executives have a history of promising that the end of load-shedding is near that reaches back over a decade.
In July 2013, Eskom CEO Brian Dames promised that there would be “no more load-shedding. We are confident”.
“We are busy building, on our side, the new projects, and we are busy running our current fleet and maintaining that. We are confident that we will keep the lights on,” Dames said.
Load-shedding began again after a 5-year hiatus in March 2014, and Dames resigned in the same month.
Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said Eskom had assured the government that load-shedding was temporary following power cuts in March 2014.
“It is as temporary as temporary can be. Once we get back to normality of drier weather, this problem will be over,” Molewa said.
“We do not believe we have an energy crisis at this time. Eskom indicated that we have enough and adequate energy in the grid.”
Despite this assurance, Eskom’s electricity generation became steadily less reliable, and power cuts continued, with stage 3 load-shedding being implemented in December 2014.
Energy department director Wolsey Barnard told the media in 2015 that the power crisis at Eskom was expected to be resolved in 20-30 months.
“It’s going to take in the vicinity of 20 to 30 months,” Barnard said. “But for the next couple of months, we’re going to pay severe attention to get maintenance up, get normality up in the supply.”
Many more promises were made in the following years, with Ramaphosa, then deputy president, saying in September 2015, “In another 18 months to two years, you will forget the challenges that we had with Eskom”.
Former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe and former President Jacob Zuma declared that “load-shedding is history” in 2016.
In April 2019, Pravin Gordhan also said there would be “no more load-shedding from today”. Load-shedding was reintroduced in October of that year.
Andre de Ruyter made his own promise after taking the top job at Eskom. He told the media that Eskom would “significantly reduce” load-shedding from September 2021.
He explained that the power utility was ramping up its maintenance plans, meaning South Africans would experience more load-shedding in the interim.
“We anticipate the maintenance programme will go on for about a period of 18 months,” he said.
However, what followed were the three worst load-shedding years in the power utility’s history.