Ramaphosa’s load-shedding lies 

President Cyril Ramaphosa has repeatedly promised the end of load-shedding – from his time as deputy president to the State of the Nation Address (SONA) this year. However, South Africans are still plunged into darkness daily. 

The South African government and Eskom executives have a history of promising the end of load-shedding stretching back a decade.

These promises continued at the 2024 edition of SONA, where Ramaphosa said the worst of load-shedding is in the past, and its end is finally within reach. 

He mentioned the R254 billion debt relief plan implemented last year to reduce Eskom’s debt burden and enable it to invest in maintenance and infrastructure. 

“Through tax incentives and financial support, we have more than doubled the amount of rooftop solar capacity installed across the country in just the past year,” he said. 

This is on top of the 2,500 MW of renewable energy added to the grid through the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Programme. 

Ramaphosa said 120 new private energy projects are being developed. 

“Through all these actions, we are confident that the worst is behind us and the end of load shedding is finally within reach.”

Ramaphosa added that his government will not stop there as it will continue to reform the energy sector to make it more competitive and sustainable. 

“As we undertake these reforms, we are positioning our economy for future growth in a world shaped by climate change and a revolution in green technologies.

However, this is not the first time that Ramaphosa has promised the end of load-shedding, which shows that his promises cannot be taken as guarantees. 

A history of false promises

Ramaphosa’s promises reach back to September 2015 when, as deputy president, he promised, “In another 18 months to two years, you will forget the challenges that we had with Eskom”.

However, load-shedding intensified after September 2017 and became a permanent feature in the country over the last few years.

This did not deter Ramaphosa from continuing to write cheques he could not cash regarding Eskom and load-shedding.

In early December 2019, Ramaphosa told the nation that Eskom management had promised there would be no load-shedding over the holiday period.

“Between the 17 December leading into January, we will be able to have no load-shedding,” Ramaphosa said.

However, load-shedding returned during this period, showing that Ramaphosa’s promises are nothing more than empty words.

At each of his successive SONAs since 2018, Ramaphosa has claimed the end of load-shedding is near. 

These promises have only become more frequent, and the timeline for the end of load-shedding has become shorter as the crisis has worsened. 

In May 2023, President Cyril Ramaphosa told South Africans that the end of load-shedding should be in sight soon.

Three months later, he doubled down on his promise, saying the government is doing great work to fix Eskom and the energy crisis and that load-shedding will end by 2024.

“Energy has been a great drawback to us, but we are working on it, and we are certain that by 2024, the energy crisis will be over,” Ramaphosa said.

He even said in September 2023 that South Africans should see stage 6 load-shedding in a positive light as it would be short-term pain for long-term gain. 

“The load-shedding that we are going through now is occasioned by what Eskom is having to do to reposition the generation of our fleet,” he said.

“They are maintaining our fleet. They are making sure that incidents of load-shedding that have been given rise to in the past because of unplanned load-shedding events like breakdowns are put behind us.”

He added that the more intense load-shedding will not last. “This, as much as it is stage 6, is of a short-term nature,” Ramaphosa said.

He said the minister of electricity had briefed him thoroughly about the processes that Eskom was going through. “There is short-term pain for longer-term gain,” he said.

Expert opinion

Energy analyst Chris Yelland

Energy analyst Chris Yelland has previously said that promises such as those made by Ramaphosa are the words of a politician and not a President.

“This is the type of election talk, with big promises and bold statements, that we have become used to,” he said.

He said there is great uncertainty whether Ramaphosa was referring to the start or end of 2024 as the date the energy crisis would be resolved.

“I would have hoped that the President learned from past experience not to make bold and ill-informed statements,” Yelland said.

In 2019, for example, Ramaphosa promised that there would be no load-shedding over Christmas. However, there was severe load-shedding over the festive season.

“The President needs to be very careful about listening to his advisors. He should not play to the crowd because people take his words seriously.”

Yelland said it was particularly concerning that Ramaphosa claimed the government was repairing Eskom on its own.

“That is factually wrong. The electricity minister always points to the good work of the Eskom management to turn the company around,” he said.

“To suggest that it is the government, on its own, repairing Eskom is political talk.”


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