minister denies remarks

Minerals and Energy Minister Buyelwa Sonjica yesterday denied having advised people to go to bed early as a means of saving electricity.

Minerals and Energy Minister Buyelwa Sonjica yesterday denied having advised people to go to bed early as a means of saving electricity.

"That speech didn't say 'go to bed, go to bed, go to bed'," she said at a media briefing on the department's national response plan to the electricity crisis.

Sonjica was speaking in Johannesburg at the launch of the National Energy Efficiency Campaign.

She said people did not understand how parliament worked, and that while she was making a speech (on energy saving ideas), she was jeered at.

"Tony Leon (MP and former DA leader) said: 'Minister, what do you do after you go to bed?', and I said: go to bed, you are stupid, you go to bed ... and you will become clever'. It is unfortunate that you have trivialised it ... it has become international news."

Last Wednesday, she told MPs during a special joint parliamentary sitting to discuss the issue that perpetual power cuts could be avoided if South Africans used electricity more responsibly.

"Go to sleep earlier so that you can grow and be cleverer [sic]. Boil less water, use the microwave rather than stove, take a shower and not a shallow bath," she was reported to have said.

During yesterday's briefing, she went through some points of the response plan.

The plan includes the implementation of a power rationing programme, restricting the sale of incandescent light bulbs and a penalty and incentive scheme to conserve electricity.

Asked about the health concerns she had raised of using wood as an alternative energy source, she said she had not said this, but that it was pointed out by a reporter that this was one of the points listed on the "Energy Saving Tips" information sheet contained in the press pack.

However, the department was planning to reintroduce a door-to-door campaign to teach people how to burn wood for energy with less smoke.

Sonjica said her own energy-saving measures included having solar heating installed and that she had a paraffin stove in her house.

According to the response plan, the risk of power cuts would remain high until at least 2013 if immediate action was not taken. - Sapa

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