By Keletso Mkhwanazi

The South African Local Government Association (SALGA) is determined to close the electricity gap by helping municipalities take advantage of the policy shift in energy generation. SALGA will assist municipalities to mitigate energy infrastructure challenges to position them for future sustainability.

New regulatory fundamental transformation to the electricity sector is being re-positioned for the country’s future sustainability of energy by allowing municipalities to procure power independently. SALGA is responding to the call made by President Cyril Ramaphosa when he pleaded with all citizens to be part of the solution by contributing to ways which can end the shortage of electricity.

SALGA has collaborated with the USAID Southern Africa Energy Program (SAEP) to provide technical assistance and capacity building as part of its efforts to support municipalities in managing existing energy infrastructure, increasing electricity access, introducing novel energy solutions, and initiating the Just Energy Transition (JET).

This partnership follows a two-day conference which was held in September last year in Secunda, Mpumalanga. The conference aimed to create strategies to support municipalities in the province to increase awareness and understanding of Just Energy Transition. According to energy experts, the transition of South Africa’s energy sector from a coal-based economy towards cleaner sources of energy will have a direct impact on the electricity value chain in local government.

Energy experts believe that municipalities are areas of major economic development and places where the challenges of rapid population growth, urbanization, energy insecurity, and service delivery collide with climate change impacts. Ramaphosa has announced that Government is working to cut red tape for the registration of new power projects and announced plans to resuscitate Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme, to substantially increase investment in wind and solar power.

While the President’s plans lacked details on the role of municipalities in addressing the country’s energy security, SALGA is forging ahead with its new generation capacity-building programme aimed at capacitating municipalities to be ready for the future energy landscape.

SALGA is confident that with the support that it is providing, eventually, it will have more than 50% of municipalities ready to play in the space of IPPs, in the not-too-distant future. Even though it won’t be possible for all of them to be in a position to buy from IPPs due to financial sustainability challenges.

Councillor of Electricity, Energy and Public works Tebogo Hlakutse said that SALGA has played its advocacy role in the shift in the national policy to allow for the private sector to play in the generation space, but also for municipalities to be able to buy not only from Eskom but also from IPPs.

He further said that the President has called on Executive Mayors to be game players in serving communities with honesty, and determination to become part of local government that is contributing towards re-forming, re-gaining and re-building the trust and confidence of societies in local government.

President Ramaphosa addressed mayors who converged at East London’s International Convention Centre on a two-day Council of Mayors which was being convened by the South African Local Government Association (SALGA). Ramaphosa told the newly elected Mayors and Executive Mayors to rise to the challenge of changing the narrative regarding the image of local government.

A game-changer in this term of office is needed and required. To show and demonstrate that we are changing the narrative of local government, there must be consequence and accountability management. This must be the hallmark of restoring the credibility of our municipalities,” said Ramaphosa

Ramaphosa has expressed his points of wanting the Mayors to change the image of local government. When Mayors and Executive Mayors,  advocate for the newly empowered MPACs to play the effective overnight role of taking responsibility for what will change the image of local government. Effective oversight role is ensured when our councils take collective responsibility to enforce discipline and decisive actions when a disastrous audit report against our municipality and hold senior executives accountable,” emphasized  Ramaphosa.

The major role and purpose of the Council of Mayors are to formalise structures in the SALGA that will meet at least annually as they’ll be focusing on addressing challenges experienced by Mayors and creating a  platform that also gives them a platform of learning, sharing and reflecting.

The assessment of the transitional progress post to the 2021 local government elections which was led by the former Minister of CoGTA, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, resulted in a key deliberation and panels discussion which unfolded where Mayors were urged to use the Covid-19 pandemic to reset the county

“The pandemic has worsened the conditions facing the South African people, increasing poverty and unemployment,” she said.

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