Ramaphosa Is Struggling to Keep the Lights On in South Africa

Ramaphosa Is Struggling to Keep the Lights On in South Africa
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa adresses the African National Congress national conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, Dec. 16, 2022 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa named a new Cabinet minister this week to tackle the country’s electricity crisis, as part of a government shakeup that doubles as damage control ahead of general elections next year.

Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, a former head of the local government of Pretoria, South Africa’s administrative capital, was appointed minister of electricity, a new position Ramaphosa described as “transitory.” He also appointed Paul Matashile as his deputy to replace David Mabuza, who resigned last month after serving one five-year term. Matashile held office as the treasurer and secretary of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress, or ANC, before he was elected last December as the party’s deputy president at its national conference.

Last month, Ramaphosa invoked emergency powers to declare a “state of disaster” that he argued would help resolve severe electricity shortages that have hobbled the country since last year, which saw a record 207 days of power cuts, compared to 75 in 2021. “Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures. The energy crisis is an existential threat to our economy and social fabric,” Ramaphosa said during the annual State of the Nation address. The declaration came amid power cuts of up to eight hours per day across homes, factories and businesses in South Africa. For years, scheduled blackouts have plunged the country into darkness due to the state-owned energy firm Eskom’s inability to produce adequate power. That has now reached crisis proportions, the result of breakdowns at its old coal-fired power plants and years of widespread graft. 

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