Hundreds of people protest against the energy crisis in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG: Hundreds of people took to the streets of Johannesburg on Wednesday to protest a protracted energy crisis causing record power cuts in South Africa.
Protesters gathered in the center of the financial capital of Africa’s most industrialized nation to march on the headquarters of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) Party.
Most were dressed in blue, the color of the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), which was organizing the rally.
Some held signs saying “enough is enough”, “power to the people” and “shedding kills jobs”.
Scheduled blackouts, known as load shedding, have plagued South Africa for years as state-owned energy company Eskom fails to keep pace with demand and maintain its aging coal-fired power infrastructure.
But outages have reached new extremes in the past 12 months, with lights going out multiple times a day sometimes for nearly 12 hours in total.
There was a heavy police presence, with authorities saying they expected around 5,000 people to demonstrate in Johannesburg, which has a population of around 5.5million.
A few hundred ANC supporters also gathered at party headquarters for a counter-protest.
Demonstrations were also planned in other places in the country, including Cape Town.
“The food is rotten”
“We have to charge our phones at certain times. We have to cook at certain times. We shouldn’t have to live like this in South Africa,” Marin Hughesa 22-year-old student, told AFP.
The blackouts cost the country hundreds of millions of dollars in lost production, disrupting trade and industry.
“I had to close four stores and 20 people lost their jobs, all because I can’t run my business due to load shedding,” said Lloyd Peltier, 40, a poultry entrepreneur.
A farming industry body said this week that dairy farms were unable to keep milk in the fridge due to power outages.
“The food is rotten in our fridges… What is the ANC doing?” request Mpana Hlasa35 years old, who works in a school.
Many were angry at the recent approval of a sharp increase in energy tariffs which Eskom, which generates more than 90% of South Africa’s energy, said would help its finances.
“I already pay over a thousand rand for electricity every month and I don’t have any,” said unemployed Betty Lekgadimane, 44.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said this week it was “understandable” that people were “fed up” with the crisis, which was “ravaging” the country, but warned it could not be resolved “from day to day”.
At an ANC meeting earlier this week, the president said the government was looking to import electricity from abroad and add generation from renewable energy sources.

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