The South African government officially lifted the national “state of disaster” it had imposed in February to deal with a catastrophic electrical crisis on Wednesday, although it added that some emergency measures would still be in place.
The declaration of a catastrophe provided the government with more authority to deal with the issue, including the ability to use emergency procurement methods with less bureaucratic red tape and monitoring.
Thembi Nkadimeng, the Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, said in a statement that the government will now try to lessen the effects of power outages utilising current law and backup plans.
The newly appointed electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said some crisis measures would remain in place.
The deputy minister of cooperative governance, Parks Tau, said that since the establishment of the Ministry of Electricity, there had been discussions about whether the “state of disaster” was still necessary.
But the disaster status was being challenged in court and the civil rights group bringing the lawsuit was quick to take credit for its withdrawal.
“The state is withdrawing the national state of disaster in response to OUTA’s legal action challenging its rationality,” said OUTA, a non-profit organisation that focuses on fighting government corruption and tax abuses.
OUTA said the disaster regulations would have enabled corruption and that the crisis could be managed using existing laws.
State of disaster legislation was used to enable health authorities to respond more swiftly to the COVID-19 pandemic, but some analysts doubted it would help the government expand the power supply much quicker.
President Cyril Ramaphosa invoked disaster regulations on Feb. 9 to fight a paralysing power crisis that has included daily rolling power cuts by Eskom.
Eskom has implemented scheduled electricity outages every day this year, with most households and businesses without power for up to 10 hours a day.
Eskom said it would not comment on the state of disaster withdrawal until it engaged with the government.
Nomvuyiso Batyi, CEO of the Association of Comms and Technology (ACT), told Reuters that the industry had high hopes the “state of disaster” would expedite measures to address the electricity crisis, including the sector’s demands for regulatory relief.
“The telecommunications industry acknowledges the government’s decision to withdraw the National State of Disaster on Electricity, but we wish to emphasize that the loadshedding crisis and its effects on our sector and the economy still persist,” Batyi said in an email.