Helen Zille responds to an open letter on the energy crisis

7 February 2008

Helen Zille

Paul Jacobson wrote an open letter to DA Leader Helen Zille about the energy crisis on Wired Gecko last Friday. While he has had feedback from her office on the matter already, we thought Shedding Light would be the ideal platform from which to respond publicly.

Dear Paul

Thank you for the constructive suggestions towards solving the energy crisis. At this time, public discussion and creative solutions are much needed and appreciated.

Rest assured, the Democratic Alliance is doing all that is possible to provide solutions to alleviate the burden imposed on all South Africans by the crisis. To this end, we have presented to government a comprehensive plan that proposes short, medium and long term solutions, centred on three key areas: diversifying South Africa’s energy resources, reducing consumption and improving Eskom’s performance.

The biggest challenge that we currently face is Eskom’s right to be the sole purchaser of all electricity generated in South Africa, meaning that, while independent electricity suppliers are entitled to produce up to 30% of South Africa’s total electricity output, they are obliged by government policy to sell the power generated to Eskom alone.

This monopoly on electricity is one of the fundamental reasons for the severity of the power shortage and, in the forthcoming parliamentary session, the DA will be pursuing all available avenues to ensure that the Eskom monopoly is scrapped. It is only once this occurs that small and independent power producers will be allowed to sell electricity directly to businesses and individuals and the DA will then explore ways to facilitate this process.

Aside from ending the Eskom monopoly, the DA plan calls for significant investment in alternative energy sources, particularly wind and solar power, which government has largely ignored till now. Part of the DA’s plan is for the Klipheuwel wind power programme near Darling (which the DA-led administration in Cape Town was pivotal in starting) to be expanded to other suitable parts of the country, and for solar water heaters to be installed in significantly greater numbers than government’s plan currently allows for.

In addition, last year the City of Cape Town initiated a pilot project to roll out solar and wind powered traffic lights to alleviate the congestion caused by power cuts. The project proved so successful that it is now being implemented nationwide and is being bankrolled by the Central Energy Fund.

The DA has also called for tax exemptions for generators to ensure that machinery can be kept running at businesses where power outages have the potential to cause significant damage to production.

These are just a few of the workable solutions proposed by the DA which, if properly implemented, will leave our economy better prepared to cope with the energy crisis.


Helen Zille



  1. I admire the response from Helen tremendously. It also seems that the DA is in an action oriented frame of mind which is a positive sign.

    In terms of ending the Eskom monopoly on electricity to the country I am willing to publicly venture the guess that Eskom will continue to be sole supplier and that the DA’s proposal will be dismissed by government.

    There is too much of an alliance (excuse the pun) between the government, ANC and Eskom for this to bear any fruit.

    I know very little of politics, but I’m sure we South Africans have seen enough to be realistic in terms of the issue at hand.

    I thank Paul Jacobson for his fantastic contribution to the issue.

    As long as there is light, there is hope.

  2. […] Zille, leader of the Democratic Alliance (dominant opposition party in South African politics) has responded to my open letter to her which I published on this blog. Many thanks to Helen for taking the time […]

  3. I listened with interest yesterday as President Mbeki outlined his response to the electricity crisis during his annual State of the Nation Address. Much of what he said has already been articulated by the Ministers of Public Enterprises, and Minerals and Energy, however, three things were noteworthy: He acknowledged the need for private producers to enter the market, reaffirmed the inevitability of higher electricity tariffs, and expressed a desire for supply from co-generation projects. Unfortunately, he made no comments on removing Eskom as the sole purchaser of electricity.

    On what he did not say…The words, “Minister Erwin, you are fired!” were regrettably not in the President’s speech

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