South African President Cyril Ramaphosa yesterday declared a state of disaster to enable the government to accelerate its response to an ongoing energy crisis. He promised to appoint a minister in his office who would focus on boosting the power supply.
Electricity shortages that have dogged the country since 2008 have reached unprecedented levels, with the country subjected to rolling blackouts every day so far this year.
Ramaphosa has been pledging to turn monopoly state power utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. around and bring new generation capacity online ever since he took office in February 2018, but many projects have been delayed by red tape and government indecision.
This state of disaster has been declared, according to the President, to enable the government to accelerate its response to an ongoing energy crisis, just as he also said he’ll appoint a minister in his office who will focus on boosting the power supply.
“Our country has for many months endured a debilitating electricity shortage that has caused immense damage to our economy and the lives of our people,” Ramaphosa said in his state-of-the-nation address in Cape Town on Thursday.
“Extraordinary circumstances do call for extraordinary measures.”
The outages, known locally as load-shedding, threaten to erode support for the governing African National Congress to such an extent that it risks losing its grip on power in next year’s elections.
While Gwede Mantashe, the energy minister, has said the problems can be fixed within six to 12 months, Eskom Chairman Mpho Makwana has warned blackouts will persist until at least 2025 because the utility needs to continue taking its old coal-fired plants offline for maintenance.
The central bank last month cut its economic growth forecast for 2023 to 0.3% from 1.1% and sees the blackouts shaving two percentage points off output growth.
Ramaphosa’s appointment of a minister in the presidency to focus solely on improving the electricity supply could potentially sideline Mantashe, who has resisted the president’s efforts to reduce the nation’s reliance on coal and utilize more green energy.
The Ministry of Public Enterprises will continue to oversee Eskom.
"The state of disaster will enable the government to provide practical measures needed to support businesses in the food production, storage, and the retail supply chain, including for the roll-out of generators and solar panels", Ramaphosa also said.
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