South Africa promises solution to blackouts ahead of elections

(From L) Eskom’s Group Chief Executive Phakamani Hadebe, South African Minister of Enterprise Pravin Gordhan, and Eskom board chairman Jabu Mabuza give a joint press conference to update on the current status of electricity supply during a visit at the Lethabo Power Station on April 3, 2019 in Sasolburg, South Africa. (Photo by Phill Magakoe / AFP)

The South African government promised Wednesday to ease power outages, a month before key national elections.

Power utility giant Eskom imposed severe and highly unpopular power rationing, known as load-shedding, for ten consecutive days in March.

Shops, offices, factories and homes were plunged into darkness for hours,  sparking widespread anger that became one of the biggest political threats facing President Cyril Ramaphosa and the ruling ANC party in the run up to the May 8 polls. 

Speaking to journalists at a power station in the central Free State province, Public Enterprises Minister, Pravin Gordhan announced plans to ensure minimal power outages for the next five months. 

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“We have a better understanding of the issues (and) certainly we have a clear,” plan the minister said.

“We have, as an aim, that there should be no load-shedding from now,” he said adding if need arises to ration power, it will be at the lowest level classified as level one, as opposed to level four which was imposed last month.

Eskom blamed last month’s power cuts on plant failures, depleted diesel stocks and the impact of cyclone Idai in Mozambique, which interrupted imported power transmission lines.

With national polls just over a month away, the blackouts have shaken the African National Congress party, which has held power since the end of apartheid in 1994.

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For many critics of the ANC, the Eskom blackouts have come to symbolise the price that the public pays for alleged corruption and mismanagement.

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