South Africa’s president Ramaphosa in crisis talks over power cuts

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A shopkeeper waits for customers in his candlelit fast food store during a load shedding electricity blackout in Cape Town April 15, 2015. South African power utility Eskom expanded rolling blackouts for a second straight day to the "Stage Three" level on Wednesday, meaning it needs to cut 4,000 megawatts from household and industrial consumers to prevent a grid collapse. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
FILE PHOTO: President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his State of the Nation address at Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, February 16, 2018./REUTERS

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was holed up in an emergency cabinet meeting on Friday to try and resolve a power crisis that has impacted negatively on the growth of Africa’s most industrialized economy and endangers its last investment-grade credit rating

Struggling state utility Eskom implemented the most extensive power cuts in more than a decade earlier this week, disrupting supply to businesses and households. It said it would reduce power for a ninth straight day on Friday.

Eskom is choking under a massive 450 billion rand ($30.6 billion) debt burden and struggles to meet electricity demand because its creaking coal-fired power stations haven’t been maintained properly.

The power crisis is one of the biggest challenges for Ramaphosa, a former trade union leader turned millionaire businessman who has promised to fix ailing state firms and reverse years of mismanagement and stagnation.

But he has found it hard to overhaul Eskom and lift the country’s growth rate due to entrenched opposition to his reforms. Another struggling state firm, South African Airways, entered a form of bankruptcy protection last week.

Ramaphosa said on Wednesday that Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan would present proposals on solving the power crisis to cabinet on Friday, after the outages forced some miners to temporarily cut output early this week.

 

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