President Cyril Ramaphosa. AFP
South Africa, one of the world's largest polluters which generates about 80 percent of its electricity through coal, is in the grip of an energy crisis.
It has been blamed on ageing power stations, sabotage and theft of coal and spare parts by organised gangs.
Since 2021, the country has secured several billions of dollars in international loans and grants to support a green transition.
But Ramaphosa cautioned against "the perception that we are called upon to make a trade-off between energy security and a just transition to a low-carbon economy".
Addressing his African National Congress (ANC) party's senior officials, he said it was not the case "that we must make a choice between coal and renewable energy".
"Our energy architecture is 80-percent coal-powered, there is just no way we are going to close those power stations... just like that," he said.
Two recently built plants, ranked among some of the biggest coal-powered stations in the world, are beset by design problems.
But they will remain operational until the end of their 40-year lifespan, he vowed.
"We have invested a lot of money into those power stations," he told the ANC meeting.
Plants nearing the end of their shelf lives will be re-purposed for clean energy, he said.
South Africa's energy crisis has forced scheduled outages, ranging from two-and-half hours to 12 hours in total in a day.