By Kathryn Armstrong
South Africa’s president has appointed the country’s first electricity minister in an effort to address the unprecedented power shortages there.
Kgosientsho Ramokgopa’s most pressing task will be to end the daily blackouts, which can last up to 15 hours a day.
He will also have to deal with allegations of corruption at the state-run energy giant, Eskom.
The outages have been badly affecting homes and businesses for months.
A state of disaster was declared in February, giving the government additional powers to resolve the crisis with less bureaucracy, regulation and extra funds.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the new electricity ministry on Monday as part of a cabinet reshuffle that also involved the creation of a department to look at governmental performance.
Mr Ramaphosa said that the most urgent task was to “drastically reduce the severity of load shedding in the coming months” – referring to the system of rolling blackouts that the country has lived under for many years.
“The appointed minister will have political responsibility, authority and control over all critical aspects of the energy action plan,” he added.
Mr Ramokgopa was later named as the chosen minister. He is a former mayor who most recently headed efforts to drive infrastructure investment.
The governing African National Congress (ANC) is under intense political pressure to deal with the energy crisis, with general elections due to be held next year.
Among the issues that are contributing to South Africa’s energy problem are Eskom’s $26bn (£21bn) of debt, old infrastructure and power stations that do not work properly, as well as recent strikes that crippled the company.
It is one of the biggest power utilities in the world, providing 90% of supply in South Africa.
Two weeks ago, Eskom removed its outgoing chief executive with immediate effect, following an interview in which he alleged the company was in the grip of organised crime and that senior ANC politicians were involved.
The party rejected the claims, calling them “unfortunate, irresponsible and baseless”.
The main opposition Democratic Alliance has called for a parliamentary investigation.