South Africa declares ‘state of disaster’ on power

 South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, has de­clared a state of disaster with immediate effect to deal with the country’s severe electricity crisis, including prolonged daily power blackouts.

“Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures. The energy crisis is an existential threat to our economy and social fabric,” said Ramaphosa in his State of the Nation address on Thursday night.

The declaration of a state of disaster comes as rolling power cuts of up to eight hours per 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 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 buy 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 ageing coal-fired power sta­tions and years of corruption.

Ramaphosa also announced that he will appoint a minister of elec­tricity, whose sole focus would be to deal with the electricity crisis.

Ramaphosa’s speech was delayed by 45 minutes after disruptions by members of parliament from the left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters opposition party, who were eventually removed from the sitting by security personnel. —Aljeeza

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