South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared a national “state of disaster” in the wake of crippling power shortages (termed ‘power shedding’ in South Africa), which he described as an existential threat to the economy and social fabric.
The on-going and developing electricity shortage in South Africa has been developing for years as delays in building new coal-fired power stations, corruption in coal-supply contracts, criminal sabotage and failures to ease regulation to enable private providers to deliver renewable energy, have gradually all but destroyed the country’s electricity power supply infrastructure.
“Profound Energy Crisis” – President Ramaphosa
“We are in the grip of a profound energy crisis,” Ramaphosa said in his annual State of the Nation Address to parliament.
“The crisis has progressively evolved to affect every part of society. We must act to lessen the impact of the crisis on farmers, on small businesses, on our water infrastructure and our transport network.”
President Ramaphosa had to delay his speech by 45 minutes after opposition lawmakers, mainly from the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters party, disrupted proceedings and tried to storm the stage.
Eskom Cuts Supply to 10 Hours Per Day
Eskom, South Africa’s State electricity utility, is implementing the most extensive rolling blackouts on record, effecting private households and businesses of all sizes. Customers have been without electricity for up to 10 hours per day in recent months in order to prevent the accelerating collapse of ageing coal power plants as factories grind to a halt, crops wither without irrigation and food rots in refrigerators.
The power cuts are predicted to reduce economic growth in South Africa, Africa’s most industrialised nation, to just 0.3 percent this year.
Will It Work?
Declaring a national state of disaster gives the South African Government additional powers to respond to a crisis, including by permitting emergency procurement procedures with fewer bureaucratic delays and less oversight.
Analysts, however, are sceptical the added powers will hasten an increase in electricity, and are concerned that it could lead to yet more corruption.
President Ramaphosa also announced there would be a new minister of electricity based in his office soon but who will head it has yet to be announced.