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Why did we need a State of Disaster again?

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    Nat Quinn
    On 28 February the government issued ‘Disaster Management Regulations pertaining to the impact of Severe Electricity Supply Constraints’.
    Very few believed that the State of Disaster (SoD) was necessary. During the SoD implemented and renewed ad nauseam for Covid-19, the cabinet was granted excessive powers to run the country unimpeded.
    The government’s press release gave the rationale for the energy SoD as being to provide practical measures to support businesses in the food production, storage, and retail supply chain, and the rollout of generators, solar panels, and uninterrupted power supply. Where technically possible, it would exempt essential infrastructure such as hospitals and water treatment plants from load-shedding.
    The government conflates the uncertainty of having to face an unexpected global pandemic with tackling ‘our constrained energy supply’.
    ‘There is widespread consensus that the enormity of the challenge requires immediate extraordinary measures,’ said President Cyril Ramaphosa. Covid was completely unexpected and globally disruptive; the energy crisis was completely expected, government-generated, and a long time coming.
    The regulations aim to assist, protect, and provide relief to the public; protect property; prevent and combat disruption; and to deal with the destructive nature and other effects of the disaster.
    The regulations also enable emergency procurement procedures in line with legislation regarding finance and preferential procurement.
    Unsurprisingly, the government can interfere in the ‘excessive pricing of goods and services and availability of the supply of goods and services’.
    The government, apparently, is confident that regulations will provide the extraordinary measures required to deal with our ‘energy constraints’.
    More bloated
    With the new Minister of Electricity, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, and a more bloated Office of the Presidency in place, what special measures did the President and the National Energy Crisis Committee (Necom) implement? They got the much-maligned private sector to raise money for the Necom in the office of the presidency and then got the private sector to do its work for it.
    In other words, despite the supposed access to funds from the Treasury allowed by the SoD, the private sector is paying for the President’s men to do their stuff.
    The Resource Mobilisation Fund (RMF) was launched on 9 March by Business for South Africa (B4SA) and the Presidency, in response to a request from Ramaphosa. We are told that it ‘will procure and contract the expertise the committee needs to address the energy crisis and support its work streams. The RMF will provide Necom with support in energy modelling, communications with the public, energy policy, legal advisory work, and project management.’
    That may be so, but will it do anything that actually helps to generate more energy?
    The level of hypocrisy Ramaphosa indulges in when begging for private money and help is breathtaking, considering how at all other times he maligns and distrusts the private sector.
    B4SA launched a similar initiative for Covid. The RMF is chaired by B4SA’s chair, Martin Kingston, and includes on its board Business Unity South Africa CEO, Cas Coovadia, and businesswomen, Faith Khanyile and Phumzile Langeni.
    Ramokgopa said there were many benefits in this ‘private and public collaboration’. The reasons for this ‘marriage of extreme convenience’ are priceless: the hiring of new staff is difficult in the public sector and ‘new staff establishment’ could take up to a year to be approved; the ‘transitory nature’ of the load-shedding crisis did not require a permanent structure; and the skills needed would not necessarily be ‘accommodated in the remuneration policies of government’.
    Utmost care
    Kingston assured us that the utmost care had been taken to avoid any conflict of interest arising through the private funding of activities in the President’s office. The procurement of services would be undertaken by the National Business Institute (NBI), and the consultants would be appointed by the RMF: the government would have no influence over contracting choices and decisions. Once appointed, consultants would work directly with Necom.
    Kingston, who was involved in the anti-apartheid movement in London, first met Ramaphosa in Sweden in 1990, when Kingston’s then father-in-law, ANC leader Oliver Tambo, had a stroke. Kingston was married to Tembi Tambo; his second wife was Pulane, daughter of the late Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and ANC Treasurer General Mendi Msimang.
    While the RMF will not undertake any policy advocacy, the NBI is not entirely an arms-length entity. It was set up by former president Nelson Mandela to assist government. Its members are many of the big corporations. However, its business purpose is ‘sustainable growth and development’.
    With all due respect, is this really where the immediate focus should be when dealing with a crisis? Are these the appropriate people to provide help in a crisis like this?
    This begs the question: why does the RMF even need the NBI? Its members are THE big corporates in South Africa. Why not consult with them to provide or acquire the skills needed? Why does inserting a third party make it more hands-off? Why does the RBI need to establish this remove? Transparency and sound record-keeping overseen by the Auditor-General should be enough, surely?
    ‘The way in which we will manage any conflict of interest is that once the RMF has procured the expertise, those individuals will report directly to Necom. They won’t report to the RMF. It is important that the accountability for the service will be located in Necom itself.’
    Viable plan
    Coovadia said business had agreed to mobilise resources for Necom because there was a viable plan on the table with deliverables that could be tracked. And what are those exactly? Or are we not allowed to know because it’s private sector money?
    ‘Already good work has been done by Necom and that gave us confidence. The plan is in the national and economic interest and it under those circumstances that we were happy to assist.’
    The South African public should be put in a position to know what the plan is and in what respect it is in ‘the national and economic interest’?
    B4SA’s objective, according to its website, is to ‘mobilise business resources and capacity to work alongside and in support of government to address bottlenecks impacting economic growth and social development in South Africa’. But we are in an emergency that is supposed to be managed under a State of Disaster.
    Coovadia says that ‘Government and B4SA are focusing on sectors of the economy that require urgent intervention; B4SA has formed a collective of business expertise and resources in an effort to mobilise teams to help revitalise important economic imperatives. B4SA aims to be part of the solution to the national economic crisis, and to ensure regular and informative stakeholder engagement and feedback.’
    Everything that affects South Africans requires urgent intervention, including the desperate need for small business to operate under less bureaucratic control. The impression from Coovadia’s statement is that it aims to get the ANC out of the holes that it has dug itself. Does the private sector get anything back from this largesse? And I don’t just mean raising its own money for services to be provided.
    More expensive place to run
    Ramaphosa has expanded his bloated office, making it a more expensive place to run, with a greater salary budget, and no sense whether it will incorporate any appropriate skills to diminish the crisis.
    By the bye, there is no indication in the regulations that the government will tackle crime and the crime syndicates responsible for much of the collapse of Eskom services.
    Democratic Alliance leader, John Steenhuisen, brought a motion to the National Assembly for an ad-hoc committee in Parliament to probe allegations of corruption at Eskom.
    The proposal was criticised by the ANC; it said that ordinary parliamentary committees dealing with Eskom should investigate the allegations.
    The final question is: When will Ramaphosa give the entire private sector its due and free it up to make the difference in saving this country that the ANC can’t make?


    source:Why did we need a State of Disaster again? – Daily Friend

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