Hundreds of people took to the streets of Johannesburg to protest the ongoing energy crisis that has led to record blackouts in South Africa. Protesters gathered Wednesday in the heart of Africa’s most industrialized country’s financial hub and marched towards the headquarters of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party.
Most were dressed in blue, the color of the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, which organized the rally. Some held signs reading, “Enough is enough,” “Power to the people” and “Load shedding is killing jobs.”Scheduled blackouts, known as load shedding, have burdened South Africa for years as the state-owned energy firm Eskom has failed to keep pace with demand and maintain its aging coal power infrastructure.
There was a strong police presence at the protest with authorities saying they expected about 5,000 people to march in Johannesburg, which has a population of about 5.5 million. A few hundred ANC supporters also gathered at the party’s headquarters for a counterdemonstration. Protests were planned at other locations nationwide, including in Cape Town. The outages have disrupted commerce and industry and cost the country hundreds of millions of dollars in lost output.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said this week that it was “understandable” that people were “tired” of a crisis that would “devastate the country”, but warned that it would not be an overnight solution. At his ANC meeting this week, the president said the government aims to import electricity from abroad and add production from renewable sources.