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Weekend brings power cut relief

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A woman serves drinks by candlelight after an unexpected power cut. File photo: Tracey Adams

Cape Town - Load shedding continued in Cape Town and across the country on Thursday night, but users can expect some respite this weekend as demand for electricity drops.

After power cuts on Wednesday night in Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain, there were cuts on Thursday night in Bishopscourt, Retreat and Constantia.

Eskom says it may be forced into regular cuts for the first time since 2008 as winter increases electricity consumption.

This week’s cuts came after units at the Kendal and Duvha power stations tripped and the supply from the Cahora Bassa hydroelectric dam in Mozambique became unavailable. These power stations were working again by on Thursday afternoon.

The City of Cape Town mayoral committee member for utility services, Ernest Sonnenberg, has asked consumers to refer to the council online load-shedding schedule (at

www.capetown.gov.za) and to send SMSes to 31220 if their power remains off for longer than it should.

“In certain cases the restoration of power results in what is known as ‘nuisance tripping’, which often goes unreported because of an assumption that the outage is due to the load shedding,” he said.

“The city regrets the inconvenience caused, but would like to assure residents that all areas are treated fairly whether they are supplied by the city or by Eskom. Customers can do their part by switching off all non-essential appliances and by monitoring their usage.”

Eskom spokesman Andrew Etzinger said there was a strong possibility of load shedding if peak-hour consumption outstripped supply.

“This is often unpredictable, as increases in household energy consumption correlate with climatic conditions.”

The hours between 6pm and 8pm are the most taxing on Eskom’s supply, and Etzinger said the system was usually stable during the day.

“The trouble is in the early evening. Commercial customers, particularly shopping centres and office blocks, can make the biggest difference by switching off non-essential lights and not leaving office equipment… on standby mode after hours.”

At Khayelitsha District Hospital, the sudden power cuts, coupled with a delay in the response from back-up generators, resulted in a temporary blackout on Wednesday.

The hospital has two “state-of-the-art” generators and a distribution board. But a temporary communication breakdown between the generators and the board resulted in an outage of about 20 minutes, said District Health Services spokesman Sithembiso Magubane.

Despite claims that hospital equipment remained functional, Magubane acknowledged that critically ill patients were taken by ambulance to nearby hospitals as part of the disaster recovery plan.

Khayelitsha Development Forum chairman Ndithini Tyhido met hospital board members and confirmed the generator failure.

“This is massively concerning because this has the potential to place the entire patient community at risk,” he said.

The Cape Argus informed Etzinger about the effects of the sudden power cut on the hospital. He apologised on behalf of Eskom.

“We try to keep good channels of communication open between us and vulnerable facilities such as hospitals, clinics, schools and old-age homes,” he said.

“Our energy advisers and technical experts are available to give advice to our clients, or in specific instances such as this, when generator systems fail. We encourage clients to contact Eskom to access these services.”

Meanwhile, the DA slammed Eskom.

“In an age of technology and social media that makes immediate communication possible, Eskom is failing vulnerable facilities like hospitals in particular and the South African public in general,” said Natasha Michael, the party’s spokeswoman on public enterprises.

“The DA has on numerous occasions called for Eskom to communicate a clear plan for the parastatal’s capacity crisis. Eskom has, however, repeatedly ignored our calls, and obfuscated accountability.”

* In March Eskom embarked on load shedding for the first time in six years. Power cuts associated with Eskom load shedding cost the economy billions in 2008.

Cape Argus


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