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ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/THAPELO MOREBUDI
ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/THAPELO MOREBUDI

The country’s  worsening energy crisis, which harms investment and growth, could lead to increased civil unrest and a reduction in the ANC’s support in next year’s national elections, the party has warned. 

The ANC, holding its annual planning meeting in Johannesburg, has identified load-shedding as one of the factors that could lead to voters looking to other parties in the 2024 polls, threatening its position as a governing party.

In a concept note prepared for the two-day lekgotla, which began on Sunday, the ANC warned that the energy crisis and the impact that the crisis has on livelihoods, “requires an urgent response to avoid potential catastrophes including unrests, damage to infrastructure, and reinforcing negative perceptions of the ANC ahead of the 2024 provincial and national government elections”.

 The ANC is therefore in a race against time ahead of the polls to  regain lost electoral support, which saw it fall below 50% in the 2021 polls, by recasting  itself as a well-run steward of the country. 

“The lekgotla must also deliberate on immediate steps that need to be taken considering the increasing number of planned social actions including demonstrations and marches,” the ANC document, which Business Day has seen, reads. 

The load-shedding, which began in 2008, has become progressively worse since then with large parts of the country experiencing  up to 10 hours a day without power.

The ANC’s voter support could fall to below 40% in 2024 because of electricity shortages. Pollsters and political analysts have predicted a swing to opposition parties.

Though the official date of the 2024 national elections has not yet been announced and no party has had its official campaign launch, President Cyril Ramaphosa has warned that campaigning by opposition parties has begun. 

“We need to get into election mode without delay,” Ramaphosa told delegates at the party’s annual planning meeting on Sunday, adding that the ANC will have to win votes in “the most difficult election campaign that we have fought”.

‘Elephant in the room’

Describing it as the “elephant in the room”, Ramaphosa said the population is frustrated with long hours without power combined with rising unemployment, crime and corruption, and lack of service delivery. 

He warned that the challenges faced by the country cannot be resolved simultaneously because of resource constraints and therefore the governing party would have to prioritise. 

“Prioritisation must be informed by one, the urgency with which matters must be addressed; two, focus and paying requisite attention to each task and thirdly; what trade-offs must be made in order to meet the challenges before us,” Ramaphosa said. 

“Should we attempt to address everything with the same urgency and at the same time, we are likely to fail to address anything in any meaningful way.”

Ramaphosa, who has been urged to declare the energy crisis a national state of disaster by opposition parties, says the government’s interventions against the crisis will take time to resolve and therefore load-shedding will remain for the foreseeable future. 

“These interventions will take some time to have an effect and we must be honest with the people that load-shedding — in one form or another — will be with us for some time. Our objective is to lower the stages of load-shedding to the lower levels while we address the overall challenge of ensuring security of energy supply,” he said. 

The ANC lekgotla, which is also attended by its alliance partners, ANC appointed people in government departments and state agencies, follows the two-day ANC national executive committee (NEC) meeting where Ramaphosa’s allies were elected to serve on the national working committee (NWC) for the next five years. 

The NWC, which include human settlements minister Mmamoloko Kubayi and minister in the presidency Mondli Gungubele, is responsible for the daily running of the party and makes recommendations to the NEC for implementation. 

The lekgotla precedes the cabinet lekgotla scheduled to begin on Wednesday and will lay the groundwork for the state of the nation address by Ramaphosa in February.

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