South Africa declares energy emergency

Johannesburg, Feb 9 (EFE).- South African President Cyril Ramaphosa proclaimed a “state of national disaster” Thursday to deal with an electricity shortage that has led to daily power cuts in the continent’s most industrialized country.

“Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures. The energy crisis is an existential threat to our economy and social fabric,” he said in his State of the Nation address to a joint session of parliament in Cape Town, South Africa’s legislative capital.

The disaster declaration allows the government to support the production and distribution of food and other goods by distributing generators and solar panels and ensuring an uninterrupted supply of power to essential operations such as hospitals and water treatment plants, the president said.

Homes and businesses in this nation of 60 million people have been experiencing power cuts of up to eight hours a day.

Ramaphosa announced the creation of an Electricity Ministry to assume “full responsibility” for coordinating all aspects of the response to the energy crisis.

And he called on the Auditor General’s Office to oversee all related expenditures to prevent abuses.

The African National Congress (ANC) government will act to ease the impact of the power shortage on “farmers, small businesses, our water infrastructure and our transport network,” the president said.

Officials likewise plan to carry out reforms at Eskom, the heavily indebted state-owned utility, Ramaphosa said.

Last month, a major trade union and several opposition parties filed a civil suit against Eskom and the government seeking damages for the losses caused by power cuts.

Poor planning, corruption, frequent breakdowns of Eskom’s antiquated equipment and the theft of machinery and cables have all contributed to the crisis. EFE jhb-pm/dr

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