Once-electricity-rich South Africa is experiencing its worst year of blackouts yet as the country plunges into its deepest energy crisis in history, with utility Eskom declaring ‘Phase 6’ load shedding this week.
According to the Daily Maverick’s Ferial Haffajee, South Africa has suffered nationwide power outages on around 100 of the year’s 260 days so far, nearly 40% of the calendar year, making of 2022 the worst year for power outages.
On Sunday, September 18, shortly before 4 a.m., the phone of Eskom CEO André de Ruyter rang. It was its chief operating officer, Jan Oberholzer, who warned that red lights were flashing on the power grid and that the diesel reserves that maintained emergency power were dwindling in Ankerlig, one of two gas-turbine power plants keep the lights on as the coal-fired fleet dies.
They pressed the button for step 6 (cut or load shedding of 6000 MW of electricity). So South Africans have woken up to advanced blackouts that can cause you to lose grid power three times a day and more often in parts of Johannesburg where the lights go out for longer periods. (Cape Town has so far seen less severe cuts due to the Steenbras Dam hydro-power facility, but is also now in Stage 6.)
The [opposition] AD [Democratic Alliance] said President Cyril Ramaphosa should cut short his trip to the United States and Queen Elizabeth’s funeral on Monday to lead South Africa through yet another crisis of power. In September 2015, Ramaphosa (then Vice President) said it would take the country 18 months and two years to deal with its energy crisis.
Load shedding means electricity will not be available except to those wealthy enough to afford diesel generators or alternative energy sources such as solar power. The price of diesel, like that of other fuels, has soared in recent months on world markets, making the cost of load shedding ever higher. In addition, the constant switching on and off of electricity is accelerating the wear and tear on energy infrastructure, thus aggravating the crisis. And consumers who have essential devices plugged in when power returns — like cellphones — often see those devices destroyed by power surges.
Over the past decade, Eskom – which provided cheap and plentiful electricity 20 years ago – has pushed South Africans into darkness. The causes: aggressive affirmative action policies that drove out skilled white engineers; politicized hiring processes that saw the top positions filled by ruling party cronies rather than qualified executives; and the corruption that robbed the company of its money and resources.
The country’s leaders are scrambling to privatize municipal power generation and build new power plants. However, while South Africa has nuclear power technology and an abundance of coal power, it is a signatory to the Paris climate accords, and international investors and donor countries are mainly interested in financing renewable energy sources, which are several years away from being reliable alternatives. .
The ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), could lose significant support in the upcoming general elections in 2024 due to power cuts. However, the opposition is fragmented and the main opposition party is still relatively small – at best, securing half of the ANC’s poll result in the 2021 municipal elections.
The ANC frequently uses race and accusations of racism to shore up its political position and discourage voters from choosing the opposition, which attracts a disproportionate number of white voters and other minority populations.
Joel B. Pollak is editor of Breitbart News and host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot Sunday nights from 7-10 p.m. ET (4-7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book Neither Free Nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His latest book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is the winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.