Solidarity launches legal challenge against electricity state of disaster

Solidarity, on Tuesday, 14 February 2023, served court papers to have the state of disaster over electricity declared unlawful as it doesn’t meet the definition of a disaster in terms of the Disaster Management Act (DMA).

Furthermore, the trade union believes South Africa’s existing legislation can be used to manage the crisis and that there was improper political interference in declaring it a state of disaster.

“The government itself is the cause of the electricity disaster and it cannot declare itself a disaster, thereby obtaining extraordinary powers to address the disaster,” Solidarity’s chief executive officer, Dirk Hermann, said.

“Disaster legislation is not meant for government failure.”

According to Solidarity, a state of disaster is an exception and a process that conflicts with everyday democracy and, as a result, should be approached with extreme caution.

Hermann referenced the abuse of power exhibited during the Covid-19 state of disaster, which included “fines imposed for weeding a sidewalk, the police making people jump like frogs, on buying flip-flops and warm food, the closing of beaches and banning cigarettes”.

“A total of 411,000 South Africans were arrested for breaking Covid-19 state of disaster rules,” he said.

“In addition to these absurdities, Covid-19 emergency funds became a source for looting.”

According to the trade union, a state of disaster is only intended as a temporary intervention. It should only be declared if there is no other way of dealing with a crisis.

However, it believes this isn’t the case for the electricity crisis.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the declaration of the state of disaster over electricity during his State of The Nation Address on Thursday, 9 February 2023.

“All the measures announced in Pres. Ramaphosa’s SONA can be implemented by using other statutory instruments. If other instruments do exist, disaster legislation does not apply,” Hermann said.

“If this state of disaster is allowed to continue, a dangerous precedent will be set.”

“Government failures, such as failure to deliver water and sewerage services, failing municipalities, the implosion of infrastructure and other problems can then also be managed by bypassing normal democratic processes by declaring a state of disaster,” he added.

Solidarity says history will prove that disaster funds will no doubt again be looted during the electricity state of disaster.

Cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister Dr Nkosasana Dlamini-Zuma declared the state of disaster via government gazette on Thursday, 9 February 2023.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the declaration during his State of the Nation Address the same evening.

“The state of disaster will enable us to provide practical measures that we need to take to support businesses in the food production, storage and retail supply chain, including for the rollout of generators, solar panels and uninterrupted power supply,” Ramaphosa stated.

His plan to address the crisis involves the appointment of a Minister of Electricity to the Presidency to oversee all aspects of the electricity crisis response.

However, shortly after the announcement, the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Solidarity vowed to take the declaration of a state of disaster to court.


Now read: These laws make an energy state of disaster useless in South Africa

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Solidarity launches legal challenge against electricity state of disaster