South Africa has declared a “state of disaster” in response to a “profound” energy crisis which has led to rolling blackouts nationally.
The announcement was made by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday, during an annual State of the Nation Address to the country’s parliament.
“Our most immediate priority is to restore energy security,” said Ramaphosa.
“We are in the grip of a profound energy crisis, the seeds of which were planted many years ago.
“We cannot undo the mistakes that were made in the past, the capacity that was not built, the damage that was done to our power plants due to a lack of maintenance, or the effects of state capture on our institutions.”
He added: “What we can do is to fix the problem today, to keep the lights on tomorrow and for generations to come.”
The president went on to explain that part of the problem is the fact that South Africa’s state-run energy company, Eskom, must perform repairs on its coal-fired power stations, and improve the availability of coal supply.
He also said that the government was looking to “enable and accelerate private investment in generation capacity,” and looking at expanding the country’s renewables as well, such as solar power.
“The crisis has progressively evolved to affect every part of society,” he said.
“We must act to lessen the impact of the crisis on farmers, on small businesses, on our water infrastructure and our transport network.
“The National Disaster Management Centre has consequently classified the energy crisis and its impact as a disaster. We are therefore declaring a national state of disaster to respond to the electricity crisis and its effects.”
This state of disaster will give the South African state emergy powers, which will allow it to control the country’s energy supply with less oversight and delays.
“Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures,” the President said.
“The energy crisis is an existential threat to our economy and social fabric.”