LETTER: Government will plead poverty and grid collapse, but those arguments are untrue

by | May 12, 2023 | State Capture Commission | 0 comments

We learnt from the report of the Zondo state capture commission that more than R1-trillion has been looted in SA in recent years. The looting continues, with the former CEO of Eskom estimating that more than R1bn a month is still being spirited away from that beleaguered utility, prejudicing its chances of restoring reliability to the electricity grid.

These facts are brought into sharp focus by the ruling of the full bench of the North Gauteng High Court directing the state to fulfil its obligations under the Bill of Rights, by arranging an uninterrupted supply of electricity to schools, police stations and hospitals (“Pravin Gordhan to appeal against court ruling on load-shedding exemptions,” May 8).

The rights to basic education and security of the person are not qualified by weasel words like “reasonable measures” and “available resources”. They have been claimable in full since day one of the new SA. Access to healthcare, other than emergency medical treatment, is subject to what is called “progressive realisation”.

Clearly there is nothing progressive about the long-standing inability of the government to make any headway on supplying electricity reliably. The government, in its intended appeal of the judgment, will plead poverty and raise fears about collapsing the grid if the order is implemented. These arguments are fallacious.

An “available resource” that the state has hitherto been shy to claim is the recovery of the loot of state capture. It is perhaps understandable that, given the identity of the looters, there is a reluctance to rake back loot. Yet internationally, asset recovery specialists stand ready to freeze and seize the vast loot of state capture in civil proceedings, in which the onus of proof is far lighter than in criminal proceedings. No proper instructions to do the necessary have been issued. The criminal justice administration is inept and gutted of all capacity to do so.

It is also perfectly possible to give our bloated public service a “haircut”, thereby freeing up funds for implementing the court order. While there is so much loot swilling around out there, with no attempt being made to effect recovery, it is specious to plead poverty.

As for collapsing the electricity supply grid: it is doable to put solar, gas and even diesel generators (as has been done in all superior courts) in place to perform what is required by the court order. To rake back loot and use imaginative solutions in the alternative energy field requires the standard of political will that may only be generated when the application for leave to appeal is refused, as it should be.

Paul Hoffman
Accountability Now

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