The South African government has stationed members of the armed forces at several of the country’s beleaguered power stations, amid rolling blackouts and allegations of sabotage and corruption.
Soldiers have been deployed at four key power generating plants, Vincent Magwenya, a spokesman for President Cyril Ramaphosa, tells VOA, saying further deployments will be announced in due course.
He welcomed the decision to send in the troops, which comes amid reports of theft, sabotage and vandalism at several plants run by state power utility Eskom.
“This is a welcome intervention for Eskom as it clearly demonstrates that days of malfeasance and nefarious activities will be dealt with by government,” he said.
Just this week, company CEO Andre de Ruyter quit, saying it was in part due to the struggle he faced in trying to turn Eskom around in the face of crime and corruption.
South Africa has been mired in an energy crisis for more than a decade, but it has accelerated this year, with the country experiencing daily scheduled blackouts — sometimes for as long as 10 hours a day.
Known here as “loadshedding,” the cuts are meant to reduce pressure on the overstretched grid.
Eskom blames its aging coal fleets and lack of maintenance for the regular breakdowns, which are having a devastating effect on Africa’s most developed economy.
South Africans also have voiced increasing frustration at the failure of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to get the power crisis under control.
ANC delegates vote
On Sunday, thousands of ANC delegates began voting for the party’s top seven membership positions at a party congress in Johannesburg, held every five years.
Whomever wins the party presidency this weekend goes on to lead the country if the ANC wins national elections in 2024.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is vying for the top job against former health minister Zweli Mkhize, who was forced to resign amid corruption allegations over COVID-19 funds.
Ramaphosa himself was recently mired in a scandal regarding the theft of a large amount of money found hidden in a sofa at his farm.
Last week, he avoided a vote that could have led to impeachment, after his party closed ranks behind him.