Johannesburg – President Cyril Ramaphosa named a new minister to tackle a debilitating electricity crisis in a mini-cabinet shake-up a year ahead of the next general election.
Ramaphosa last month declared a state of emergency to help tackle severe energy shortages.
On Monday, he appointed 48-year-old engineer and former mayor of the capital Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, to be the new Minister for Electricity, a position Ramaphosa described as “transitory”.
“The primary task of the new minister will be to significantly reduce the severity and frequency of load shedding (electricity outages) as a matter of urgency,” said Ramaphosa in a televised address.
This is Ramaphosa’s first executive revamp since last year when the country started experiencing record power cuts that have hampered economic growth and exasperated South Africans.
Years of scheduled blackouts have plunged Africa’s most industrialised economy into darkness as the state-owned energy firm Eskom – saddled with constantly breaking down generating plants – fails to meet demand.
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The power cuts have reached new extremes, with the country experiencing a record 207 days of power outages last year alone, compared to 75 days in 2021.
Outages cost hundreds of millions of dollars in lost output each day.
Ramaphosa also appointed Paul Mashatile, 61, as his deputy president to replace David Mabuza, who resigned last month after serving just one five-year term during which he was largely absent.
Mashatile was treasurer and secretary general of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) before he was elected party deputy president in December.
Outspoken Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, daughter of revered anti-apartheid activists Walter and Albertina Sisulu, who has openly opposed Ramaphosa in recent months, was dropped from the executive. Her portfolio, was handed to a leader of the small opposition party GOOD, Patricia de Lille.
Surprisingly Ramaphosa retained Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who in December defied ANC party orders and voted with the opposition in favour of a motion that would have initiated proceedings to remove the president from office over a farm cash theft scandal.
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