Home News ‘Keep the lights on’: SAns have had enough of loadshedding

‘Keep the lights on’: SAns have had enough of loadshedding

by Zahid Jadwat

While politicians point fingers and experts debate the best solution, South Africans are simply fed up with loadshedding.

As of Thursday (July 7), the country was experiencing a fluctuation between stages 4 and 5 of loadshedding. Power utility Eskom had indicated that loadshedding would continue into the weekend.

Salaamedia’s sister outlet, SM Digital, took to the streets of Soweto, Johannesburg, to find out how loadshedding has impacted individuals and businesses alike.

“On the issue of Eskom, we must find a way of defeating loadshedding. We can’t live like this,” were the words of John Mokoto, a fast-food vendor in the township’s Pimville area.

He explained that the intermittent power cuts have resulted in costly stock losses for his business.

“My stock gets messed up. Because of loadshedding, the fridge doesn’t work. It leads to a point where I have to throw away that stock. The [price of] stock has gone up,” he said.

Another resident, Simphiwe Mbatha, said loadshedding has made it difficult to prepare her kids for school. She urged the power utility to find a solution.

“Some of us have kids that we must take to creche. It’s very difficult to prepare them in the morning. Please, Eskom, find another way to keep the lights on and not take it the way that you do. It’s really affecting us,” she said.

Others expressed concern that crimes were rising during the dark hours of loadshedding.

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How did we get here?

Eskom said the most recent instance of rolling blackouts was necessitated by an illegal strike that had begun two weeks ago. It was, therefore, unable to ensure maintenance at some of its plants, leading to capacity shortages.

Eskom and trade unions finally agreed on a 7% wage increase across the board and R400 hikes in housing allowance on Tuesday (July 5). The deal will cost the cash-strapped entity a whopping R1bn. Nonetheless, capacity shortages persisted beyond the strike.

“While some generation units have been returned to service over the past few days, this is not sufficient to suspend loadshedding as other generation units have had to be taken offline for repairs,” Eskom said in a statement.

The country’s energy crisis has persisted for more than 15 years. Senior government officials, including President Cyril Ramaphosa, have repeatedly promised to end loadshedding.

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There have been growing calls for the government to end South Africa’s heavy – and costly – reliance on coal. Others have called for either the declaration of a state of emergency, an energy committee or a greater contribution from private suppliers.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan reportedly came under fire at a meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the African National Congress (ANC) this week. He made a presentation on the state of the energy grid, saying the situation was “technical with very few solutions”.

Meanwhile, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said the declaration of an ‘energy emergency’ would be required to cut the red tape that was preventing new power generation.

According to Eskom board member Busisiwe Mavuso, “there is only one way to ensure we do not face such occurrences again – we must diversify the sources of electricity in South Africa.”

“We cannot rely on a single state utility any longer. We have known this for some time and had we acted more vigorously sooner, experiences like last week could have been avoided,” Mavuso said.

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