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Electricity woes front and centre as SA heads to Davos

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Ending the rolling blackouts that are hampering South Africa’s economy is chief among the government’s priorities. That is the message Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana hopes to convey to world leaders at the World Economic Forum (WEF) this week.

This may be a tall order for a country that, over the past year, has experienced the worst load shedding on record since the rolling power outages were first implemented 15 years ago.

Last week saw state-owned Eskom open-endedly implement Stage 6 load shedding, translating to between eight and 12 hours of no electricity per 24-hour period.

Read (English) or listen (Afrikaans): South Africa could experience load shedding for the next decade – CSIR

“Ending blackouts and solving the energy crisis remains among the government’s top priorities,” Godongwana said.

He was speaking at a pre-WEF business briefing ahead of the annual meeting scheduled to take place from 16 to 20 January in Davos, Switzerland.

Read: Godongwana paints gloomy GDP outlook ahead of WEF meeting

At this year’s WEF, world leaders will hold meetings and discussions around the theme ‘Cooperation in a Fragmented World’.

The South African delegation includes President Cyril Ramaphosa, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor, and Minister of Human Settlements Mmamoloko Kubayi.

“We are aware of the challenges Eskom faces,” Godongwana said, adding that the instability in South Africa’s power supply is one of the biggest barriers to the country’s economic growth.

Trip a waste of money?

Speaking to Moneyweb, Professor Jannie Rossouw of Wits Business School said the energy struggles in South Africa have tainted its image, which bodes badly for its appearance at the WEF. He noted that the latest WEF Global Risk report flagged energy and the collapse of infrastructure as risks to South Africa.

“More disconcerting is their reference to state collapse, the fact that South Africa no longer has an effective government … the private sector is now running the country,” Rossouw said.

“I think we are wasting money to send a delegation there, [they must] stay home and try to fix things here. This government should focus on municipal service delivery and fixing Eskom and forget about all other dreams.”

‘Oppositional attack’ against SA?

Pandor questioned the failure of 11 power stations last week, which preceded Eskom’s decision to push the country to Stage 6, stating that their sudden failure all at once should be probed.

“We can’t live forever in a befuddled state of amazement – time must arrive when we begin to protest the inadequacies that we’re experiencing with energy security,” said Pandor.

“They’re actually now beginning to look almost like some form of oppositional attack against South Africa.com.”

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