Bishop in South Africa Laments Rotating Outage, Says Call for Resignations “makes sense”

Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of South Africa's Mthatha Diocese. Credit: Bishop Sithembele Sipuka

A Catholic Bishop in South Africa has lamented rotating outage in the country, a situation that is characterized with the halting of electricity supply for non-overlapping periods of time over different parts of the Southern African nation.

In his July 2022 Pastoral Letter addressed to the people of God under his pastoral care, Bishop Sithembele Anton Sipuka blames the electricity challenge on the leadership of the Electricity Supply Commission in South Africa (ESKOM) and supports calls for their resignation.

“It does not cut it for leaders to cite problems and challenges for lack of electricity without fixing the problem,” Bishop Sipuka says in his latest Pastoral Letter circulated on July 2.

The Local Ordinary of South Africa’s Mthatha Diocese adds in reference to those at the helm of ESKOM, “It is unreasonable for them to expect us to understand because they are paid to ensure that the electricity supply continues in such a way that societal operations depending on electricity are not severely hampered.”

“Analysts say that practically speaking, stage 6 load-shedding translates into 6 hours of power cuts, which translates into 6 hours of production loss,” Bishop Sipuka says, and adds, “The call for non-performing leaders in the form of Ministers, MECs, directors, CEOs, Mayors, and managers to step down makes sense.”


The Bishop of Mthatha Diocese who doubles as the President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) goes on to fault those responsible for supplying electricity in South Africa as engaging in mere narratives.

He says, “In particular, if the minister of public enterprise (which includes ESKOM) and the ESKOM CEO only end at narrating the problems that lead to loadshedding with no demonstrable and time-targeted efforts to solve the problems, the calls for them to step down are understandable.”

“If they do not step down, the call to step down can be rightly extended to the president, who is ultimately in charge,” the South African Bishop who has been at the helm of Mthatha Diocese since his Episcopal Ordination in May 2008 says. 

He emphasizes the duty of leaders to go beyond talk and provide solutions to challenges saying, “There are elected leaders in the form of politicians who are paid to provide policy guidance and officials who are paid to ensure operation. A leader is there to ensure that when a crisis strikes, it is resolved so that the normal operation of the entity he/she leads continues.”

In his latest Pastoral Letter, the SACBC President who is also the First Vice President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) challenges non-performing leaders in South Africa to learn from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who, in 2013, announced his resignation

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“People can be kept in a leadership position even if indications point to stagnation and a downward spiral in the institution they lead,” Bishop Sipuka says, adding that such people “can be kept and stay in the position for their own sake, while the institution, in its mission of pastoral care, evangelization and numbers, shows no improvement.” 

He continues, “When Pope Benedict realized he was not successful in leading the Church in its challenges, he stepped down.”

Turning his attention to his brother Bishops, the President of SACBC says that in their leadership role in the Church, they “too must continually discern our effectiveness and, upon realizing our lack of usefulness, be open to revival intervention or step down because it is not about us but the church.”

The 62-year-old Catholic Bishop also addresses underage consumption of alcohol in taverns and asks Church leaders and sodalities to be proactive to avoid another tragedy such as the East London Enyobeni tavern disaster that claimed the lives of 21 teenagers.

“Instead of playing only an ambulance role, coming after the disaster has occurred, we must as Church also be proactive and engage to minimize such tragedies if not to end them”, says the Local Ordinary of Mthatha Diocese in his July 2 four-page Pastoral Letter.


He adds, “I invite the priests to raise this matter in their ministers’ fraternal and seek ways to address it.” 

“Catholics in leadership positions must agitate for discussion and solutions to this tavern's problem,” Bishop Sipuka further says, and adds, “Women sodalities in cooperation with women groups of other churches could also initiate a conversation about this matter to find ways of addressing it.”

Sheila Pires is a veteran radio and television Mozambican journalist based in South Africa. She studied communications at the University of South Africa. She is passionate about writing on the works of the Church through Catholic journalism.