A R23 billion cash injection into Eskom, broadband expansion plans to be carried out by Telkom and an alternative way of registering for the smart ID cards. These are some of the tech-related plans announced by President Jacob Zuma as he delivered the eighth (and probably most memorable to date) State of the Nation Address (SONA) during the joint-sitting of Parliament in Cape Town last night.

For a moment, it looked like the address wasn’t going to go ahead at all due to the chaos that erupted after members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) disrupted the president during his speech and were forcibly removed by security officials and police. The incident resulted in members of the Democratic Alliance (DA) and United Democratic Movement (UDM) leaving the assemble in protest.

The president did however manage to go on with his address, giving South Africans insight into what they can expect from government in the next financial year.

Eskom and electricity

Loadshedding

Probably one of the most anticipated parts of the address was the issue of loadshedding and Eskom in South Africa and how the government plans to tackle it.

“Uhulumeni wenza konke okusemandleni akhe ukubhekana nesimo sokuncipha kukagesi ezweni. Siyazi ukuthi lesi isikhathi esinzima, kodwa sizodlula, ngoba sinezindlela yokusebenza loludaba,” President Zuma said in his native isiZulu, loosely translated:

“Government is doing everything in its power to address the issue of power shortages in the country. We know this is a difficult time, but it will pass, because we have ways to deal with the issue.”

Government’s short and medium term plans involve improving the maintenance of Eskom’s ageing and problematic power stations, enhancing the electricity generation capacity and managing the electricity demand. The long-term plan will look at finalising government’s energy security master plan.

“As a priority we are going to stabilize Eskom’s finances to enable the utility to manage the current period. In this regard, Government will honour its commitment to give Eskom around 23 billion rand in the next fiscal year,” President Zuma said.

“The “War Room” established by Cabinet in December is working diligently around the clock with Eskom, to stabilise the electricity supply system and contain the load shedding. We urge all individuals, households, industries and government departments to save electricity in order to reduce the need for load shedding.”

To help do its part to take pressure off the national grid, the Department of Public Works will ensure that all government-owned buildings conserve energy.

Government has instructed Eskom to switch over from using diesel to gas as a source of energy for the utility’s generators and is encouraging households from electricity to gas for cooking, heating and other uses. (Why no mention of solar energy? We’re curious.)

This year will see the construction of Kusile, Medupi and Ingula power stations adding 10 000 megawatts of capacity to the national grid.

Plans have also been made to secure energy via alternative resources outside of coal.

“To date government has procured four thousand megawatts from Independent Power Producers, using renewable sources,” the president announced.

“A total of 3900 megawatts of renewable energy has also been sourced, with 32 projects with a capacity of just over 1500 megawatts completed and connected to the grid. Eskom itself has completed the construction of the Sere Wind Farm, which is already delivering 100 megawatts to the grid, well ahead of its intended launch in March this year.”

“Government also began procurement in December 2014, of 2400 megawatts of new coal-fired power generation capacity, from Independent Power Producers. The procurement process for 2400 megawatts of new gas-fired generation will commence in the first quarter of the new financial year.”

“A total of 2 600 megawatts of hydro-electric capacity will be sourced from the SADC region.”

In the long-term, government will pursuing using gas, petroleum, nuclear, hydropower and other sources for energy generation.

“The Operation Phakisa Ocean Economy initiative, launched last year, also promises to unveil more oil and gas resources, which will be a game changer for our country and region. Government is also exploring the procurement of the 9,600 megawatts nuclear build programme as approved in the Integrated Resource Plan 2010-2030,” the president added.

“Our target is to connect the first unit to the grid by 2023, just in time for Eskom to retire part of its ageing power plants.”
“With regards to hydro power, the Grand Inga Hydro-electrical Project partnership with the Democratic Republic of Congo will generate over 48,000 megawatts of clean hydro-electricity.  South Africa will have access to over 15,000 megawatts” the president concluded.

Smart ID cards

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Since government began the rollout of smart ID cards in 2014, citizens young and old have had to apply and collect their cards at Home Affairs.

As of this year, however, a bit of the load will be taken off of the Home Affairs branches as you will now be able to apply and collect your smart ID card at a bank thanks to a new partnership between the Department of Home Affairs and “some banks in the country”, none of which were specifically named during the speech.

Broadband

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President Zuma highlighted the need to boost ICT infrastructure and broadband rollout as one of the keys to growing the country’s economy and creating much-needed jobs.

Government has partnered with Telkom as the lead agency to kick off the first phase of broadband delivery in South Africa this year.

The partnership will see government offices in the following eight district municipalities being connected:

  • Dr Kenneth Kaunda, North West
  • Gert Sibande, Mpumalanga
  • O.R. Tambo, Eastern Cape
  • Pixley ka Seme, Northern Cape
  • Thabo Mofutsanyane, Free State
  • Umgungundlovu and Umzinyathi, KwaZulu-Natal
  • Vhembe, Limpopo

In 2013, government unveiled South Africa Connect, also known as the National Broadband Policy, which aims to, among other things, achieve an overall average speed download of 100Mbps by 2030.

Unfortunately, the implementation of South Africa Connect was slowed down by a number of factors, including awaiting approval from cabinet and the changing of ministers in the presidential cabinet.

Water

“Water is a critical resource for economic growth and a better life,” President Zuma said. “The country loses seven billion rand a year to water losses.”

Zuma then went on to announced a number of projects in the implementation or planning phases, all aimed at providing water for industrial and household use around the country.

“Major projects include Umzimvubu Water project in the Eastern Cape, Jozini Dam in Umkhanyakude in KwaZulu-Natal and projects in Bushbuckridge in Mpumalanga and phase one of the Mokolo Crocodile Water Augmentation in Limpopo,” President Zuma said.

“Progress is being made to improve the water supply to areas that had been affected by shortages, such as  Makana District Municipality in the Eastern Cape, Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality in North West and Giyani in Limpopo where we celebrated the delivery of water to 55 villages in October last year.”

The president also issued a call to all South Africans to conserve water, as “every drop counts”.

President Zuma later announced that the Department of Water and Sanitation will train 15 000 artisans or plumbers who will be deployed to fix leaking taps in their local communities.

You can read the full SONA address on The Office of the Presidency’s website.

[Main image – CC 2.0 by Government ZA]