South African power cuts worsen

STORY: South African power cuts worsened this week as struggling state utility Eskom said it would extend its worst-ever outages until further notice.

The government announced on Thursday that it will take on a portion of Eskom's debt.

The utility company has been mired in financial crisis for years and is dependent on government bailouts.

The National Treasury said at October's mid-term budget that it could take on between one-third and two-thirds of Eskom's over $23 billion debt to try to make the company financially viable.

The "Stage 6" power cuts mean six to eight hours a day without power for most South Africans and require up to 6,000 megawatts (MW) of capacity to be shed from the national grid.

They are a major source of public frustration with the governing African National Congress party.

Its support among voters is sliding.

The power cuts are also a brake on economic growth in Africa's most industrialized nation.

Eskom supplies the vast majority of South Africa's electricity, relying mainly on an ageing fleet of coal-fired power stations that are unreliable and prone to faults.

The country witnessed more than 200 days of power cuts in 2022, and the situation could get even worse in 2023.

Since taking office in 2018, President Cyril Ramaphosa has been trying to reform debt-laden Eskom to make it more efficient but progress has been slow.