CAPE TOWN – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster on Thursday evening to address the country’s electricity crisis.

“The National Disaster Management Center has consequently classified the energy crisis and its impact as a disaster. We are therefore declaring a national state of disaster to respond to the electricity crisis and its effects,” said Ramaphosa while delivering his 2023 State of the Nation Address in Cape Town.

“The state of disaster will enable us to provide practical measures that we need to take to support businesses in the food production, storage and retail supply chain, including for the rollout of generators, solar panels and uninterrupted power supply,” he said, adding that it will also enable the country to exempt critical infrastructure such as hospitals from load shedding.

To deal more effectively and urgently with the challenges, Ramaphosa said he will appoint a minister of electricity in the presidency to assume full responsibility for overseeing all aspects of the electricity crisis response.

South Africa has been experiencing severe electricity shortages, with more than 200 days last year recording load shedding. It has been getting worse as there have been outages of many as eight hours without power in a day.

“As we outline our agenda for the year ahead, our most immediate task is to dramatically reduce the severity of load shedding in the coming months and ultimately end load shedding altogether,” the president said.