State of disaster declared in South Africa as country grapples with electricity crisis

A state of disaster has been declared in South Africa as the country grapples with a severe electricity crisis.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the emergency measure, which will take immediate effect, during a state of the nation address on Thursday.

“Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures. The energy crisis is an existential threat to our economy and social fabric,” said Mr Ramaphosa.

It comes as people in South Africa face rolling power cuts of up to eight hours a day, with factories and businesses also impacted.

The country’s power company, Eskom, is unable to produce adequate power due to frequent breakdowns at its ageing coal-fired power stations.

These stations generate little more than half their capacity – with demand for power consistently outstripping supply.

Eskom has warned South Africans to expect prolonged periods of power cuts and has been implementing a policy of rolling blackouts which it calls “load-shedding”.

Read more:

How South Africa’s scheduled power cuts put lives on the line

South Africa previously implemented a state of disaster to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and in the aftermath of 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.

It will also enable the government to purchase additional power from neighbouring countries on an emergency basis and allow them to make diesel-powered generators and solar panels more widely available, Mr Ramaphosa said.

Alongside announcing the state of disaster, Mr Ramaphosa announced that he will appoint an electricity minister, whose sole focus would be to deal with the crisis.

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