Ramaphosa has ‘no plan’ for Eskom’s ‘huge debt problem’ – Parties react to Sona speech 

President Cyril Ramaphosa briefing the media following his visit to Eskom Megawatt Park | Image: YouTube

Eskom remained the biggest threat to South Africa and the emergency measures announced by the president were simply confirming what was already known: ‘Eskom is dead,’ said the DA.

The DA says President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) showed that he had chosen the ANC over South Africa and saving the country from economic disaster.

The party was reacting following a speech delivered by the president in the National Assembly on Thursday evening.

“This Sona speech was his moment. The perfect storm of a stalled economy, rampant unemployment, fast-disappearing investment, shrinking tax revenue and a failed state-owned power utility has meant that this decision could no longer be kicked down the road, as the president has been doing these past two years. We have reached the proverbial D-day for introducing the critical reforms needed to stave off an economic collapse.

“President Ramaphosa knows this urgency, and he also knows exactly what needs to be done. Since the start of his term as president – and particularly in recent months – economists, ratings agencies, opposition parties and even his own Finance Minister Tito Mboweni have been telling him the same thing: Either you make bold economic reforms – even if this is politically difficult – or you sign the death warrant of our economy,” DA interim leader John Steenhuisen said.

Steenhuisen said, while Ramaphosa, in his speech, had made the some moves in the right direction regarding Eskom, he had stopped far too short of what was required.

He added that Eskom remained the biggest threat to South Africa and that the emergency measures announced by the president were simply confirming what was already known: “Eskom is dead.”

“The ANC’s insistence on trying to resurrect it by raiding the pensions of government employees is madness. There is no ‘financially sustainable’ way to throw a quarter of a trillion rand of pension savings down a hole that has no bottom,” he said.

‘Totally unacceptable’

Speaking to News24 in the parliamentary precinct following proceedings, African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) leader Kenneth Meshoe said the party would oppose any motion that the money of government employees be used to bail out cash-strapped Eskom.

“That, we are not happy about. Civil servants have done their work. They have worked very hard, but for them to be threatened that part of their pension fund will be used to bail out Eskom, is totally unacceptable as far as we are concerned. And we will definitely oppose that,” he said.

Meshoe said they would have liked for the president to outline government’s plans on policy certainty, and that he had not fully addressed his plans on that.

The president should have assured investors on the plans of political stability, he added.

“On the issue of the economy, political stability is also needed. There have been a lot of violent protests. The ACDP would like to see political stability, and he needs to tell us how is that going to happen. He didn’t say anything about that, which means that the protests are going to continue being violent. Buildings will continue being torched…”

The ACDP said it believed that the president should have assured investors on its plans for political stability.

The governing party’s treasurer general Paul Mashatile said they were expecting a lot of action in the coming months, following the president’s speech, particularly in creating jobs for the youth of South Africa.

“You can see there were a lot of plans that have gone into that speech. We are expecting to see a lot of action in the various players of our economy to improve economic growth,” said Mashatile.

‘Huge debt problem’

Meanwhile, trade union Solidarity has welcomed the steps announced by the president to decentralise power generation, saying the next step was to make the transmission networks available to private generators.

Solidarity’s Dirk Hermann said they welcomed the drastic steps to decentralise power generation as announced by Ramaphosa, but added that there was no plan to address Eskom’s “huge debt problem”.

“We foresee a huge clash between pension fund members and government, and Solidarity will be at the forefront of this fight,” he said.

Hermann added that it appeared that government had already decided to implement the National Health Insurance (NHI) before the public processes were finalised.

“In view of this, Solidarity will instruct its legal team to start to prepare for a court battle to stop the NHI,” Hermann said.

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