South Africa declares ‘state of disaster’ over energy crisis

ESA ALEXANDER/REUTERS

Credit: The Globe and Mail South African President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his 2023 state of the nation address in Cape Town, South Africa, on Feb. 9.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday declared a national “state of disaster” over his country’s crippling power shortages, saying they posed an existential threat to the economy and social fabric.

The electricity crunch has been years in the making, a product of delays in building new coal-fired power stations, corruption in coal-supply contracts, criminal sabotage and failures to ease up regulation to enable private providers to swiftly bring renewable energy on tap.

“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.”

State electricity utility Eskom is implementing the worst rolling blackouts on record, leaving households in the dark, disrupting manufacturing and hurting businesses of all sizes.

The power cuts are expected to reduce economic growth in Africa’s most industrialized nation to just 0.3% this year.

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