Ramaphosa to skip UNGA address date

Wednesday, September 21st, 2022 06:14 | By
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. PHOTO/Courtesy
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. PHOTO/Courtesy

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa cancelled his planned address at the UN General Assembly in New York to  return home after attending British Queen Elizabeth’s funeral on Monday to deal with nationwide blackouts.

South Africa continues to endure long hours without electricity due to the breakdown of five generating units, the power utility Electricity Supply Commission (Eskom) in South Africa said here on Monday. The country is currently at load shedding level six, meaning that the power utility must remove 6,000 megawatts of power from the grid.

During this stage, the country can go without electricity for up to at least six to eight hours per day. Eskom said the country lost about 7,210 MW due to planned maintenance and 16,597 MW of capacity was lost to breakdowns.  

 “The system has been under pressure over the past week. This has caused us to run our reserves -- our diesel and our dams - very hard and we are now in a situation where we urgently need to replenish these reserves in order to maintain an adequate safety buffer as we are required to do by the grid code,” said Eskom Chief Operating Officer Jan Oberholzer at a press briefing on Sunday.

The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI)  President Mtho Xulu told Xinhua that the load shedding is negatively affecting business and economic growth.

The country is recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and the load-shedding would make it difficult to recover, he said. He said that “our estimate is that load shedding is costing the South African economy 41.2 million U.S. dollars per stage.” Xulu said unreliable energy supply makes it difficult to convince investors that the country is the best investment destination, adding that Eskom should tell the nation what the real problem is, whether there have the capacity and skill to solve it, and their solution. Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said the government is eroding the little confidence citizens have regarding its leadership due to the current Stage 6 of nationwide rolling blackouts.

The trade union said the government has poorly addressed the issue and called on the president to find a permanent solution to the crisis. The Democratic Alliance (DA) has reiterated its call for President Ramaphosa and the government to account for the energy response plan, saying Eskom is not entirely to blame for the country’s power crisis.

Ever since the days of the anti-apartheid struggle, the UN has been an important venue for South African diplomacy.

In June 2018, President Ramaphosa secured African Union-backing for South Africa for a two-year term as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. It is their third time holding a non-permanent “Africa” seat. At last year’s UN General Assembly (UNGA), Ramaphosa revealed a statue of Nelson Mandela prior to a peace summit in his name.                                

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