South African President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a state of disaster to enable the government to accelerate its response to an ongoing energy crisis, and 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 declaration of a state of disaster comes as rolling power cuts of up to eight hours a day are hitting homes, factories and businesses across the nation of 60 million.
The state of disaster is an emergency measure previously implemented to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and the deadly floods that killed more than 400 people last year.
According to Mr Ramaphosa, the declaration will enable his government to exempt essential services such as hospitals and water treatment plants from power blackouts and enable the government to purchase additional power from neighbouring countries on an emergency basis.
It will also enable the government to assist businesses to deal with the effects of widespread power cuts, including making diesel-powered generators and solar panels more widely available.
The country’s power utility, Eskom, is unable to produce adequate power due to frequent breakdowns at its aging coal-fired power stations and years of corruption.
Mr Ramaphosa also announced that he will appoint a minister of electricity, whose sole focus would be to deal with the electricity crisis.
Mr Ramaphosa’s speech was delayed for 45 minutes after disruptions by members of parliament from the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters opposition party, who were eventually removed from the sitting by security personnel.