“This is a difficult time. Many people are frustrated because of the uncertainty around what is happening. We fully understand the frustration."
THE SOL Plaatje Municipality is ready for Stage 5 and Stage 6 load shedding.
Various news reports stated yesterday that Eskom and government had started planning for Stage 5 and Stage 6 load shedding. This was according to officials who say that there is a race against time to ensure that a national blackout and grid collapse do not happen.
Stage 5 and Stage 6 load shedding imply shedding 5 000MW and 6 000MW respectively.
Municipal spokesperson Sello Matsie said yesterday that for local businesses and residential consumers, Stage 5 would be the implementation of Stage 4 together with the switching off of geysers, while Stage 6 would see additional sub-stations being cut off at the same time, resulting in more blocks of load shedding throughout a 24-hour period.
At the first major briefing to explain the fourth day of Stage 4 power cuts yesterday, Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan said he could not say yet when rolling blackouts would end.
Eskom supplies more than 90 percent of the power in South Africa but has suffered repeated faults at its coal-fired power stations, along with low water levels at hydroelectric plants, diesel shortages and loss of imports from Mozambique.
Around 17 000 megawatts of Eskom’s installed capacity of 45 000 megawatts is unavailable, Gordhan said.
“Engineers are visiting the power stations themselves to give us an independent view of what is going wrong and how quickly we can repair what is going wrong,” Gordhan told journalists. “We need to complete these investigations, and we will come back to you in the next 10 to 14 days.”
Malfeasance, coupled with aging infrastructure and decreasing expenditure on maintenance, were blamed for Eskom implementing load shedding over the past five days.
“This is a difficult time. Many people are frustrated because of the uncertainty around what is happening. We fully understand the frustration. We apologise for the burden that we are placing on South Africans at this point in time; (also) to the businesses – small and big – that are working under difficult circumstances in the current economic climate,” Gordhan said.
He emphasised the importance of understanding where Eskom’s challenges emanated, saying the entity was doing its utmost to normalise the situation.
Eskom board chairperson, Jabu Mabuza, stated the power utility’s problems were financial, structural and operational.
“We have tried to do what we call a clean-up. What is clear now is that there is money stolen. This is clear. It’s clear looking at the financials that there has been no maintenance. The expenditure on maintenance was getting less and less until 2018. The question is how was money being spent? That is a matter for law enforcement.”
Meanwhile, residents in Kimberley are not only suffering the effects of load shedding, which claims up to five hours of their day, but several have also complained of having to replace electrical appliances that were damaged when the lights went off.
“I have lost my deep freeze and now today my wi-fi has also packed up as a result of load shedding. Who is going to carry these costs,” one resident asked.
She pointed out that what made the situation even more infuriating was the fact that the street lights in Kimberley were left on day and night. “Today the street lights in Carters Glen were still burning at 1.30pm. This is a slap in the face of residents who have to endure two and a half hours of load shedding twice a day due to a shortage of electricity. Perhaps if the municipality switched off the street lights, we might have half an hour more electricity a day.”
The resident pointed out that she had tried to contact the municipality to report the matter of the street lights. “I kept getting told that I was sixth in the queue and then after half an hour, the phone went dead. I even tried to call internal numbers but there was no answer from any of the offices.”
According to the resident, the effects of load shedding are devastating to many.
“My daughter works at an old age home and many of the elderly residents, especially those with Alzheimer’s, cannot understand why the electricity is off.
“This is a very difficult period for many people and the municipality is blatantly disrespecting the public by leaving street lights on in the middle of the day.”
Mediclinic Kimberley/Gariep spokesperson, Denise Coetzee, said yesterday that while service delivery at the hospital was not affected by load shedding because the facility had generators, there was a huge financial implication. “It costs us R2 500 per hour for diesel to run the generators.”
Commenting on the street lights, Matsie said it was possible that the timers were out due to load shedding.
“We will, however, try to ensure that street lights are not on during the day time.”