The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs has terminated the power crisis-induced national state of disaster.
The department gazetted the notice on Wednesday (5 April), which includes the termination from the department, as well as the revocation of the classification of the severe electricity supply constraint as a national disaster by the Head of the National Disaster Management Centre.
The state of disaster was declared on 9 February 2023 on the basis that the prevailing Eskom energy crisis in the country has done untold damage to the country and is an existential threat to businesses and the economy.
Announcing the state of disaster, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that regulation under the Disaster Management Act would allow for the government to coordinate to address the crisis through a single focus point.
“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 said.
The regulation changes published by Cogta weeks later gave the department and ministers far-reaching powers to deal with the crisis, including exempting critical infrastructure from load shedding, allowing new generation capacity to speed past environmental laws, and unlocking finances through ’emergency procurement’.
However, in the month that followed, very little was actually done using these regulations.
A number of gazettes were issued by departments like Trade and Industry and Communications to open investigations into which entities could be exempt from load shedding – as well as exempting some businesses from competition clauses – but little else emerged.
Meanwhile, the fact that a state of disaster was declared at all faced immediate backlash, with the government facing mounting legal challenges to the move.
Civil action group Outa and trade union Solidarity both took the government to court.
Critics and opponents have argued that the declaring a state of disaster over a crisis that the government itself orchestrated was irrational. Further, the groups argued that the government was fully empowered and had all the necessary tools at its disposal to address the crisis without giving the state power to circumvent certain rights through the Disaster Management Act.
Solidarity announced on Wednesday ahead of the official gazette that it had received word from the State Attorney’s Office that the state of disaster would be terminated.
The State Attorney invited those who had launched legal challenges to the move to withdraw, as the relief they sought would now be moot.