(Bloomberg) -- Top South African ruling party leaders expressed concern that the country’s worst-ever power outages are damaging its popularity and that the minister overseeing the national power utility has presented no new solutions, people familiar with the matter said.
Members of the African National Congress’s National Executive Committee concluded a three-day meeting on Monday to discuss the energy crisis. Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. last week began cutting as much as 6,000 megawatts, or about a fifth of demand, from the national grid after a pay strike disrupted its operations. Those outages snarled traffic, halted businesses and resulted in a deluge of negative headlines and public criticism of the government.
While Pravin Gordhan, the minister of public enterprises, gave a presentation, three people familiar with the situation said it dwelled on previously raised issues, including the harm inflicted on the utility during former President Jacob Zuma’s corruption-marred tenure that ended in 2018. The people asked not to be identified as the meeting was private.
South Africans have been subjeced to regular power cuts since 2008 because Eskom can’t meet demand. Gordhan and President Cyril Ramaphosa have repeatedly pledged to address the energy crunch to no avail.
The Department of Public Enterprises referred queries to the ANC. Pule Mabe, the party’s spokesman, didn’t immediately answer calls to his phone or respond to a text message.
NEC members made a number of suggestions including bolstering Eskom’s board and crafting an electricity crisis plan with industry experts, the people said. The panel also debated whether Ramaphosa should address the nation on the outages, and one member suggested moving Eskom to the mining and energy ministry, reiterating a proposal that has come up several times, they said.
Support for the ANC dwindle to below 50% in last year’s municipal elections, the first time it hasn’t won an outright majority since it came to power in 1994. The vote coincided with rolling power blackouts across the country and Gwede Mantashe, the ANC’s national chairman and the nation’s energy minister, told the media the party’s biggest opposition was Eskom.
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