Gwede Mantashe and Pravin Gordhan have demonstrated they do not understand the degree of frustration faced by South Africans, Cosatu general-secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said on the sidelines of the SACP’s special national congress on Tuesday.
Mantashe and Gordhan, the ministers of minerals and energy and public enterprises, respectively, have been tasked by President Cyril Ramaphosa to deal with the ongoing energy crisis.
South Africans have been living in a state of uncertainty over the declining state of state-owned enterprises, none so than power utility Eskom.
On Monday, this frustration boiled over when Eskom announced stage 6 load shedding, the highest stage it has initiated since the implementation of enforced blackouts.
Ntshalintshali said the trade union federation had set up meetings on Monday with the two ministers after the announcement, however, both failed to attend them, “[c]learly demonstrating to us that they do not understand the degree of frustration that South Africans are facing”.
“There is a question of unemployment, companies have started laying off [people]. Companies are closing. More surprisingly is the minister saying load shedding is manageable. I think they are out of touch with the understanding and frustration as well as the depth it has,” he added.
‘The government must wake up’
During an interview with eNCA on Monday evening, Gordhan said stage 6 load shedding was “not a big a crisis, it’s something we are managing”.
“We have sat at Nedlac and we have said we need to set up a team that must meet on a daily basis to try to understand where the problems are. People need some confidence. They need to know there is a turn-around strategy.
“Yes, we are on load shedding but until when? We predict what we will be told later is that there is no money for diesel… The government in our view must wake up in dealing with this issue,” Ntshalintshali said.
Ramaphosa was criticised for leaving the country when his leadership was needed the most.
On Monday, DA interim leader John Steenhuisen said given the gravity of the situation, the time for platitudes from Ramaphosa and dithering from Mantashe was long past, News24 reported.
“The country is asking what exactly is going on, and we deserve full transparency on this threat to national stability.”
Steenhuisen called on Ramaphosa to cancel his official trip to Egypt.
While the president decided to cut short his trip, Ntshalintshali said Ramaphosa did not need to be in the country.
“The president is not an engineer. He will not know the issues. We understand the concern, but these are different issues. It’s not political, it’s not violence. There is very little the president can say to update South Africans.”