Energy crisis in South Africa – State of disaster declared; South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday announced a “state of disaster” due to the country’s extreme power shortages, which are threatening the economy and social structure.
Energy crisis in South Africa – State of disaster declared
The power shortage has been brewing for years, with delays in the construction of new coal-fired power plants, fraudulent coal supply contracts, criminal interference and failures to simplify regulations and license private providers who bring in renewable energy in a hurry. In his annual State of the Nation address to parliament, Ramaphosa said, “We are in the grip of a deep energy crisis.” “The crisis has gradually evolved to affect every part of society. We must act to mitigate the impact of the crisis on farmers, small businesses, our water infrastructure and our transmission network,” he said.
The power cuts are likely to reduce economic growth in the continent’s most industrialized country to 0.3 per cent by 2023.
Declaring a state of national disaster gives the government the power to control a crisis, including authorizing emergency procurement procedures with reduced bureaucratic delays and minimal imprecision. This measure was intended to allow health authorities to operate more quickly during the COVID-19 pandemic, but some analysts doubt that it will help the government to quickly increase the supply of electricity.
South Africans, already facing high unemployment and rising living costs for several months
South Africans, already facing high unemployment and rising living costs for several months, are spending between six and ten hours a day without electricity. According to the South African Department of Energy, losses due to load shedding are estimated at nearly one billion rand per day, or about 50 million euros. This emergency measure is expected to accelerate power supply projects and free up additional resources to fight the crisis, according to President Ramaphosa.
South Africa’s continuing energy crisis is attributed to aging power generation units, as well as the inability of the main supplier, Eskom, to meet national demand. The company, which supplies 90% of the country’s electricity, has accumulated a debt of 400 billion rand. The load shedding, which affects all sectors of the country, is undermining the government’s efforts to turn the economy around. While the unemployment rate is approaching 33%, the South African central bank has revised its growth forecasts downwards to 0.3% in 2023, compared to 2.5% in 2022.
Opposition in the street!
The state of disaster also aims to appease a growing anger that has taken to the streets in recent weeks with demonstrations against power cuts in several cities, called by the opposition and unions.
Again on Thursday, several hundred demonstrators gathered in Cape Town, in a difficult economic and social context: unemployment has reached a peak of 32.9%, growth forecasts for this year are almost zero (0.3%) and the cost of living continues to rise due to persistent inflation.
South Africa is still largely dependent on fossil fuels and is struggling to make the transition to clean energy. A $98 billion investment plan was approved by rich countries last year at COP27 as part of an agreement for a “just transition.
On the political front, Cyril Ramaphosa is also going through a delicate period. On Thursday evening in Cape Town, he was interrupted several times at the beginning of his speech, in a tense atmosphere.
Mired in an affair with a whiff of dirty money for which a police investigation is underway, Mr. Ramaphosa, 70, escaped impeachment proceedings in December, supported by the ANC. The historic party subsequently re-elected him as its leader, assuring him of a second term as head of state if the ANC wins the 2024 general election.