South African President Cyril Ramaphosa gave his annual State of the Nation Address on Thursday, February 9th. President Ramaphosa’s speech, which was delivered in front of the South Africa’s Parliament, was given in Cape Town’s City Hall.
While the speech was disrupted by the perennial antics of the Economic Freedom Fighters’ parliamentarians, when President Ramaphosa got the opportunity to finally speak, he declared a State of Disaster that was implemented with immediate effect. The state of disaster was implemented to combat the electricity crisis currently affecting South Africa on a daily basis.
State of Disaster
“Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures. The energy crisis is an existential threat to our economy and social fabric,” said Ramaphosa. The state of disaster was announced before President Ramaphosa gave his speech. “The state of disaster will enable us to provide practical measures that we need to take to support businesses in the food production, storage, and retail supply chain, including for the rollout of generators, solar panels, and uninterrupted power supplies,” he said. “And it will enable us to accelerate energy projects and limit regulatory requirements while maintaining rigorous environmental protections, procurement principles, and technical standards,” he added.
Ramaphosa said the state of disaster would allow critical infrastructure, such as hospitals and water treatment plants, exclusion from load shedding. It would also allow South Africa to purchase electricity from other nations in emergency situations.
President Ramaphosa announced the new position of Minister of Electricity that will be a part of the presidential administration. He said the new minister would be responsible for overseeing the response to the energy crisis, working closely with the National Energy Crisis Committee and Eskom’s board and management.
“We are not presenting new plans … All of these measures will result in a massive increase in power to the grid in the next 12 to 18 months,” Ramaphosa said, referring to solutions for the energy crisis. The focus of the government would be on working harder to fix the power stations with problems and expedite renewable energy structures such as solar and wind projects, said President Ramaphosa.
Energy Crisis Impact on the Economy
South Africa has been experiencing load shedding for over a decade now. The energy crisis has had a negative impact on the country’s economy. In September 2022, Stats SA reported that the country’s gross domestic product had contracted by 0.7% in that year’s second quarter and it was largely due to load shedding. Companies and businesses have suffered losses or had to increase expenditures to cope with the regular loss of power. Retail giant Pick n Pay recently announced that it spends approximately $3.5 million per month to cover the impact of load shedding.
The energy crisis disrupts agricultural projects, creating the possibility that food security might be compromised. Herman Du Preez, who operates Frangipani Farms, announced the farm was suffering huge losses due to the regular loss of power. Besides the extra money used to buy diesel for generators, Du Preez’s chicken project requires electricity. He recently filed a lawsuit against Eskom for financial losses suffered when 40,000 to 50,000 of his chickens died. “I never thought it would happen to me,” Du Preez told CNN. “I’m not asking them to do me a favor. I will keep doing my job. I will produce food. I will wake up early, work on Sundays to produce food for South Africa. I like what I’m doing. Just do your job. You have one thing to do, just do it. Just give us power, please.”
“Electricity is central to modern farming practices, and the recent increase in load shedding has seriously disrupted farming operations. Pumping stations, irrigation, cooling and other systems all depend on power supply,” said AgriSA, one of the biggest agricultural organizations in South Africa.