President Ramaphosa pledges to tackle South Africa’s load shedding problem

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa answers questions about the BRICS partnership during a media briefing in Cape Town, South Africa, on June 10, 2022. (Photo by Xabiso Mkhabela/Xinhua)

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa vowed to implement additional measures to quickly stabilise the country’s electricity system which has endured a series of challenges in the last few weeks resulting in severe load shedding.

In a statement released on Monday, Ramaphosa said the state-owned power utility Eskom will be able to reduce load shedding to lower stages as the system recovers and generation capacity is restored.

Eskom said it will take a few weeks for its power generation system to fully recover to pre-strike levels. /CFP

“We will soon be completing the detailed work and consultations needed to finalise these further measures. We will then, in the coming days, be able to announce a comprehensive set of actions to achieve much faster progress in tackling load shedding,” Ramaphosa said in his weekly letter to the nation.

“There are no easy solutions to our electricity crisis. But we are committed and determined to explore every avenue and use every opportunity to ensure that we generate enough electricity to meet the country’s needs.”

Ramaphosa acknowledged that South Africans had a right to feel angry and frustrated after several years of electricity shortages but said the government had taken some immediate measures to address the shortfall in electricity supply.

Ramaphosa pointed to an agreement between Eskom and labour unions to end a crippling strike over wages to facilitate critical repairs and restore the operations of additional units.

The strike by Eskom workers, coupled with unit breakdowns, saw the company lose more than 8,000 megawatts (MW) of generation capacity forcing it to implement Stage 6 load shedding late last month.

“The transmission line from Cahora Bassa in Mozambique has been restored, adding 600 MW to the grid, and Medupi Unit 6 returned to service on Saturday, adding another 720 MW. Additional units will come back online during the coming week, further easing the current shortfall.”

FILE PHOTO: A girl studying by candlelight in a township in South Africa. /CFP

Ramaphosa added that security agencies were also working to tackle sabotage, theft and fraud at Eskom but stressed that the country ultimately needed to add more capacity to its electricity grid.

“This will create space for Eskom to undertake critical maintenance and increase the reliability of its fleet. It will also create a buffer so that even if several units experience breakdowns at once, other sources can be used,” Ramaphosa noted.

“There is no reason why a country like ours – with the skills, capabilities and resources we have at our disposal – should have to endure electricity shortages.”

Ramaphosa had made reforming Eskom and addressing South Africa’s power crisis a priority as power cuts cost the nation millions of dollars per day and adversely affect investor confidence.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)