Broken Promises Fuel South African Anger Over Power Cuts

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Rotating power cuts are roiling South Africa once again and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration is taking the heat for them.

Ramaphosa has been giving assurances that the government would fix Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., the troubled state utility that supplies about 95% of the nation’s power, since 2015 when he was deputy president. While the company’s management has been overhauled, it’s struggled to improve the reliability of its old and poorly maintained plants.

Eskom increased power cuts to Stage 4 on Wednesday, removing 4,000 megawatts from the system to avoid a collapse of the grid after several generating units broke down. Its executives have warned that the electricity supply will remain unreliable until it fixes out defects at two new plants and addresses a maintenance backlog.

“You’re all talk and no action,” Kevin Mileham, energy spokesman for the main opposition Democratic Alliance said in an open letter to Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe . “As we sit here in the dark again, minister we have to ask: where is the sense of urgency?”

Plans to buy emergency electricity and relax rules to make it easier for companies to generate their own supply have proceeded at a leisurely pace, and the government has stalled on issuing bids for new renewable energy plants for years.

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