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Dead Chicks and Rotting Meat: South Africa Declares ‘Disaster’ Over Power Cuts

Summary

South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa proclaimed a "state of emergency" due to daily power disruptions of up to 10 hours. The outages are caused by an aged network of coal-fired power plants, which Eskom, the dysfunctional state power provider, is trying to keep operational. South Africa has had power interruptions for over 16 years, but the last several months have been the worst. Mr. Ramaphosa appointed an electricity minister and claimed the proclamation would boost power projects and exclude food producers and other important businesses from power disruptions. In interviews, energy and economic experts blamed a century of mismanagement for Eskom's problems. The utility, which largely serviced the white minority and subsidized power for major sectors like mining under apartheid, thus many profitable enterprises did not pay their due amount. Jesse Burton, a researcher at the Energy Systems Research Group at the University of Cape Town, said low prices still make it hard for Eskom to pay maintenance expenses. Analysts think radical steps like going into debt or implementing a tiered tariff structure that subsidizes the poor and taxes wealthy firms would alleviate the energy crisis.

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