The Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources and Energy successfully concluded the Eastern Cape leg of the public hearings on the Electricity Regulation Amendment (ERA) Bill in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality yesterday.
The committee held the last of four public hearings in the province at Babs Madikane Hall in Uitenhage, where the Bill was supported by many residents. The residents called for its urgent implementation to reduce the impact of loadshedding in their area. They commended the R1 million fine for theft of Eskom infrastructure, saying it is sufficient as government needs to stop vandalism on Eskom transformers.
Frustrated residents told the committee about the dilapidating Eskom infrastructure in their area and said the municipality doesn't know what to do. They said transformers are crumbling unattended in front of the municipality. They suggested that Eskom should take over from municipalities. They told the committee that their area is blessed with enough natural resources such as sun and wind to generate electricity.
The committee has now conducted the public hearings on the ERA Bill in all nine provinces. In the Eastern Cape, the committee held public hearings from 27 to 30 November in Alfred Nzo, OR Tambo, and Chris Hani district municipalities as well as in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro. At every venue where the committee held public hearings, attendance was overwhelmingly positive and many residents expressed their views on the Bill.
Residents who supported the Bill expressed their appreciation to the committee for visiting their area and made proposals to strengthen the Bill, including a call for an increase of the five-year sentence for vandalising of the Eskom infrastructure. Those who rejected the Bill based their rejection, in the main, on its proposal of the unbundling of Eskom into three entities. They told the committee that unbundling would translate into the privatisation of a historical public resource.
The committee embarked on nationwide public hearings to ensure that the final Bill reflects the views of the people and the affected stakeholders. Promotion of public participation in law-making is one of Parliament's constitutional roles. It is in line with this constitutional imperative that the committee ensured that the majority of South Africans in all corners of the country had an opportunity to express their views on the ERA Bill.
The Chairperson of the committee, Mr Sahlulele Luzipo, said the committee had noted with appreciation that many Eastern Cape residents expressed their views on the Bill and welcomed all the submissions the committee received. "As the committee, we appreciate that you came out in numbers to participate in this law-making process, which is one of the key mandates of Parliament."
Mr Luzipo also said: "It is unfortunate that the conclusion of the public hearings on this very important Bill has coincided with the tragic death of 11 mine workers and more than 75 seriously injured at Impala Platinum Mine near Rustenburg in the North West Province. The committee has extended its heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and wished those who were injured a speedy recovery."