By Mike Moriarty MPL, DA Chief Whip in the Gauteng Legislature
and Ashor Sarupen, DA Gauteng spokesperson on IT:
Gauteng Premier David Makhura today admitted that his government had no contingency plan to provide emergency services in the event of a national electricity blackout.
It is estimated that the impact of a national blackout would be catastrophic and that it would take 2-3 weeks to restore supply to normality.
During this time there would be a virtual total breakdown of all services such as health, education, traffic management, and emergency services such as fire and ambulances.
Moreover, water supply will fail and fuel supplies would completely dry up – with a devastating effect on supply of all goods and services.
Indeed, there is a risk of widespread panic and lawlessness.
In his response to DA questions for oral reply, the premier said that while the threat of a national energy shutdown would be disastrous, the Gauteng Provincial Government only had some contingency capabilities, which would fall far short.
Indeed, it was clear that the Premier had not considered the prospect of a national blackout in any way.
Additionally, the Premier does not see his government as being responsible to coordinate all disaster recovery efforts, irrespective of whether the service providers were local, provincial or national.
It is imperative during disaster recovery that emergency services continue, that law and order is maintained, and that government is on hand and available to deal with any situation that may arise.
The premier stated that emergency services had backup generator capacity, but could not say how much fuel reserves were on hand.
He said they are “waiting” for municipalities to submit plans, which he has requested. In other words, these do not yet exist.
He could also not provide an answer over the capabilities of the police, fobbing it off as a national government competency.
While the provincial government is planning to supplement the grid through the installation of rooftop solar panels, retro-fitted gas boilers and re-commissioning the Rooiwal, Pretoria West and Kelvin power stations, these plans are for the medium to long term and serve only to mitigate the possibility of a blackout – but is not a plan to recover from such a disaster once it actually happens.
The fact is that the premier has a responsibility to the people of Gauteng, and he has to coordinate with all municipalities and government departments to produce an effective contingency plan to ensure that Gauteng does not descend into chaos.
It is not difficult to plan and coordinate. It is not difficult to get cooperation to anticipate disaster and develop protocols to respond adequately. It is the very least that the people of Gauteng can expect.
Simply hoping that Eskom would keep the lights on will no longer suffice.