By Hassan Isilow
JOHANNESBURG (AA) - South Africa’s president Thursday declared a national state of disaster with immediate effect to enable the government to deal with the ongoing electricity crisis crippling Africa’s most industrialized economy.
“The Minister of Cooperative Governance has just gazetted the declaration of the State of Disaster, which will begin with immediate effect,’’ Cyril Ramaphosa announced during his annual state of the nation address (SONA) at the Joint Sitting of Parliament in Cape Town.
Ramaphosa said he will also appoint a minister of electricity in the presidency to assume full responsibility for overseeing all aspects of the electricity crisis response in the country.
South Africa is facing its worst electricity crisis in decades, with rolling blackouts of up to six hours a day.
Power utility Eskom, which generates over 90% of the country's electricity, has been struggling to meet the demand and implementing different stages of outages for weeks.
Most of the output from the utility's aging power plant array is coal-fired, with the facilities in need of maintenance.
Ramaphosa said the state of disaster will enable the government to provide practical measures needed to support businesses in the food production, storage, and retail supply chain, including for the rollout of generators, solar panels, and uninterrupted power supply.
He said the most immediate priority for the government is to restore energy security.
“The Minister of Electricity will focus full-time and work with the Eskom board and management on ending load shedding and ensuring that the Energy Action Plan is implemented without delay.”
Ramaphosa’s speech had earlier been delayed by members of the Economic Freedom Fighters party (EFF), the third largest in parliament, which kept raising points of orders.
They also attempted to storm the podium where Ramaphosa was waiting to deliver his address creating chaos in the house. Security officers then removed the EFF legislators from the house, where they were seen scuffling with security.
In his address, Ramaphosa also extended his condolences to the people and government of Türkiye following Monday's deadly earthquakes which have claimed over 17,400 lives.