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P res­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma has blamed the coun­try’s in­creas­ing power out­ages on bad plan­ning dur­ing apartheid. More than seven years after his pre­de­ces­sor, Thabo Mbeki, apol­o­gised to the na­tion for not lis­ten­ing to Eskom’s pleas to invest more in elec­tric­ity, Pres­i­dent Zuma said: “We don’t feel guilty about the en­ergy is­sue. It is not our prob­lem of to­day, but a his­toric prob­lem, one of apartheid, that we are re­solv­ing.”

De­vi­at­ing from his speech scripted for the ANC’s 103rd birth­day cel­e­bra­tions in Cape Town, Zuma ex­plained that, pre­vi­ously and un­der apartheid, elec­tric­ity was cheaper and it was con­sid­ered a means of at­tract­ing for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment.

“En­ergy was made to serve a few,” he said, be­cause apartheid was aimed at look­ing after the needs of the white mi­nor­ity.

“After 1994, we had to pro­vide en­ergy to all, be­cause peo­ple had the right to en­ergy, and we sud­denly re­alised we don’t have enough,” he said.

Zuma has made th­ese re­marks be­fore, but this time he was speak­ing on be­half of the en­tire ANC, whose na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee met on Wed­nes­day to de­cide on the con­tent of the speech.

Zuma promised that the new Medupi power sta­tion, which is al­ready more than a year be­hind sched­ule, would help to al­le­vi­ate the cri­sis, and gov­ern­ment would look at pulling in in­de­pen­dent power pro­duc­ers, as well as strik­ing deals with re­gional ones, to al­le­vi­ate the rolling black­outs.

In 2007 Mbeki said: “Eskom was right and gov­ern­ment was wrong.” He ad­mit­ted that gov­ern­ment had failed to heed Eskom’s calls to invest more in elec­tric­ity be­cause of the rapid growth of the econ­omy.

Trea­sury lead­ers this week met with Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa, who was tasked last month with sort­ing out state-owned en­ti­ties in cri­sis, in­clud­ing Eskom, the SA Post Of­fice and SAA.

“The deputy pres­i­dent was deeply shocked when we briefed him about the ex­tent of the cri­sis,” said a Trea­sury of­fi­cial who met with Ramaphosa this week.

An ANC leader on Fri­day night at the ANC’s gala fundrais­ing din­ner told City Press that chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cers of state-owned en­ter­prises were not in­vited be­cause the ANC did not want th­ese of­fi­cials to be seen to be party loy­al­ists or donors. But ANC trea­surer-gen­eral Zweli Mkhize, whose of­fice or­gan­ised the din­ner, did not con­firm this.

In his speech, which in­cor­po­rated clauses of the 60-year-old Free­dom Char­ter, Zuma also tried to ap­peal to the con­cerns of mid­dle class black South Africans by say­ing that the “ANC will make sure that the mid­dle class, par­tic­u­larly the black mid­dle class, con­tin­ues to grow as part of so­cioe­co­nomic trans­for­ma­tion”.

Zuma be­came quite an­i­mated when he spoke about cor­rup­tion, say­ing that it ex­isted be­fore 1994, but the gov­ern­ment didn’t do any­thing about it. He said now that the ANC gov­ern­ment was deal­ing with cor­rup­tion, there was a per­cep­tion that it was re­spon­si­ble for cor­rup­tion.

“It is strange that the very gov­ern­ment that is ad­dress­ing cor­rup­tion is be­ing at­tacked. Maybe it is by those who don’t want to be ex­posed,” Zuma said, re­fer­ring to crit­ics and com­men­ta­tors.

ANC sec­re­tary-gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe yes­ter­day told the SABC that the party was fo­cus­ing on the Free­dom Char­ter this year in or­der to “re­claim” it from pop­ulists.

The party is plan­ning to have Free­dom Char­ter “fo­rums” across the coun­try to spread ideas about the val­ues con­tained in the doc­u­ment, but also as a means of kick­ing off an early cam­paign for next year’s lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions.

The ANC in the Western Cape had to scram­ble to fill the 52 000-seat Cape Town Sta­dium in sunny and hot weather yes­ter­day.

Many peo­ple who at­tended the cel­e­bra­tion were fer­ried into Cape Town by buses and trains from prov­inces like the East­ern Cape. A few thou­sand Cape min­strels, dressed in their tra­di­tional colour­ful uni­forms, helped fill the stands, which were about four-fifths full.



The ANC’s top brass – Baleka Mbete, Cyril Ramaphosa and Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma – ar­rive and greet the thou­sands of ANC sup­port­ers who came to the Cape Town Sta­dium to cel­e­brate the ANC’s 103rd birth­day



Scores of ANC sup­port­ers came to Cape Town to lis­ten to Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s speech

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