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Ramaphosa: Public anger over 'devastating' power cuts is understandable

Dec 09 2019 22:53
Lameez Omarjee

President Cyril Ramaphosa has said that ongoing rotational power cuts are causing great harm to the economy and disrupting the lives of citizens. 

The Presidency on Monday evening issued a statement in response to Eskom taking the unprecedented step of instituting stage 6 load shedding at 6pm. Stage 6 was implemented until 10pm, when the power utility announced the load shedding level had been downgraded to level 4. 

Eskom announced on Tuesday that stage 4 load shedding would continue until 11pm on Tuesday, with high risks of cuts for the remainder of the week. 

Stage 6 allows for up to 6 000MW to be cut form the national grid. The struggling power utility had previously only had to institute power cuts up to stage 4 load shedding, allows for up to 4 000MW to be shed.  

The president, who is on his way to Egypt for an official visit, said he had been in contact with Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Eskom leadership on the state of the national electricity grid.

"Our immediate priority is to get as much generating capacity back on line within the shortest possible time. Eskom's emergency response command centre and technical teams are working around the clock to fix multiple breakdowns," Ramaphosa said. 

Ramaphosa said that "anger and frustration" over power cuts is understandable. "We call on all South Africans, especially energy intensive users, to reduce consumption at this time," he said.

"The extreme weather in several parts of the country over the last week has compounded the problems of an electricity grid that was already under great strain."

Eskom earlier said that heavy rains and floods at three power stations had caused its already-reduced generation capacity to plunge further, which forced it to institute stage 6 cuts to prevent a total grid collapse.   

No overnight solution

Ramaphosa said that the challenges of capacity constraints would not be resolved soon. 

"We have set out on a bold path of restructuring and rebuilding. Despite the setbacks of the past week, we are making progress and will steadily begin to see the fruits of these efforts."

The president did not respond to a call by DA leader John Steenhuisen to postpone his trip to Egypt to address a reconvened Parliament about the power crisis. 

"There is severe trouble at home, and Ramaphosa must attend to that ahead of all other engagements," Steenhuisen said. 

Eskom, meanwhile, said on Monday evening that power cuts would likely continue for the remainder of the week. 

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