Fellow Democrats,

Ndi matseloni,

Thank you for welcoming me to Thohoyandou, the home of the Vhavenda people.

For the past two days I have been travelling through Limpopo, saddened that a province with such great beauty and immense potential has become a feeding trough for corrupt politicians. From VBS to On Point Engineering, from Danny Msiza to Faith Muthambi – the corrupt know they can eat the people’s money with no consequences. Not one person implicated in the VBS heist is in jail. We will not let the tsotsi’s get away with VBS – they will end up in jail.

Yesterday, President Ramaphosa was here in Thohoyandou. He had a lot to say about accountability and basic service delivery, which are foreign concepts to the people of Limpopo. In this province, the corrupt walk free while the people are left in crippling poverty. In this province, there are 937 000 unemployed people – mainly young people. And this number continues to grow.

However, it was what the President didn’t say yesterday that should be of concern to the people of Limpopo, and of South Africa.

Not too far from here, the multi-billion development of the Musina-Makhado Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is currently underway. This project has been punted by the President, the Premier of Limpopo and various government departments and entities as a job-creating economic development that ought to be celebrated. What has not been punted by the President is the quid pro quo that has been agreed to with these Chinese companies.

What the President did not mention yesterday was the Power China International Energy Project in the Musina-Makhado SEZ. In short, this is the construction and operation of a 4 600MW coal-fired plant to be built over the next few years. This announcement was made on the back of President Ramaphosa’s trip to China in September last year – the same trip where he secured a R33 billion loan for Eskom from the Chinese Development Bank.

The reality is that it appears this power plant will be used solely to power this SEZ. There are many serious questions about this development, none of which the President has been forthcoming with. In the interests of South Africa, we need absolute clarity on:

  • The timeline on this new coal powered plant;
  • Who will build this new power plant; and
  • Whether the power station will only serve the planned new Chinese-controlled industrial park.

It cannot be the case that while South Africa is on the brink of plunging into complete darkness due to lack of energy, Ramaphosa will allow foreign companies to come to our shores and build their own power plants for their own narrow interests.

Cyril Ramaphosa’s new strategy cannot be to sell our country to the highest bidder. The DA will not allow China’s model of “debt trap diplomacy” to take root in South Africa. We all know what happens when countries sign such deals with China. Just ask Sri Lanka, who had to surrender an entire port and surrounding land. Or Zambia who stand to lose Lusaka International airport to the Chinese. Or Djibouti who face the possibility of handing over some key assets to China.

The DA has a clear plan to reform the energy sector and to stabilise electricity supply. We would immediately:

  • Privatise the generation entities of Eskom, allowing a diverse range of energy to enter the grid, increasing competition and lowering costs;
  • Instruct Eskom to immediately freeze the build on the last two outstanding units at Kusile, and instead look to bring on more IPPs to provide power. Eskom’s debt is spiralling due to cost overruns on the two big coal builds, while the units are not running at full capacity due to design and build flaws.
  • Reaffirm Eskom’s engineering and maintenance employees as an “essential service” that cannot enter into strike action;
  • Install major smart meters for municipalities to force municipalities to collect revenue timeously; and
  • Allow well-functioning metros to source energy directly from independent energy suppliers.

It is time for real change, and the DA can bring that change. Our agenda for reform will build One South Africa for All where there’s a job in every home, our communities and streets are safe, our borders are secure, basis services are delivered to all, and corruption is eliminated.