South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki on Friday sought to reassure international and domestic businesspeople over the fall out from the country’s power crisis insisting the ”emergency” would be overcome and would not affect plans for the 2010 football World Cup.
By Alec Russell in Johannesburg culled from the financial times
The rand has fallen by about 10 percent to a 16-month low, and predictions of economic growth have been pared down from the 5 per cent seen in the past three years to about 3 per cent in the wake of a month of rolling power cuts.
In his annual state of the nation address to parliament Mr Mbeki apologised to the country on behalf of the government and the state electricity company, Eskom, for what he described as a ”national emergency”.
”I am aware of the fact that many in our society are troubled by a deep sense of unease about where our country will be tomorrow,” he said. But the problems could be overcome in ”a relatively short period” he said if businesses and individuals embraced a new government drive for energy efficiency.
With Eskom’s reserve margins down to at best a few per cent, and power cuts expected for at least four years until the first of a new generation of power stations comes on stream, tourism officials have expressed concerns for the staging of the 2010 World Cup. Mr Mbeki urged South Africans not to worry, saying he had no doubt it would be the best-ever tournament.
He also cited approvingly comments by Cynthia Carroll, the chief executive of the mining giant, Anglo American, who told a mining conference last week that mining companies should be able to come through the power crisis ”relatively unscathed”. The country’s big gold and platinum mines had to close down at the end of last month for five days because of a shortage of power.
Since Mr Mbeki’s defeat by the populist Jacob Zuma in the leadership elections for the ruling African National Congress in December, supporters of the two men have been locked in a behind-the-scenes tussle for control of policy and government. Mr Mbeki, who is due to step down next year did not refer to the country’s tense internal politics.
Nor did he address the drive by the ANC to close down the Scorpions, the country’s top anti-crime unit, whose investigations have infuriated many senior figures in the party, including Mr Zuma. He is due to stand trial in August on charges of corruption, fraud, and racketeering. He denies wrongdoing.