Jan Oberholzer the Chief Operating Officer at Eskom has been the face of Eskom during the period that the country was facing Stage 6 loadshedding. Photo: Bloomberg
DURBAN - "I know that you're angry. You ought to be. We are the brake preventing the country from moving forward. Who would want to come invest here, with Stage 6 loadshedding?" said Jan Oberholzer the Chief Operating Officer at Eskom to the City Press. 

Oberholzer has been the face of Eskom during the period that the country was facing Stage 6 loadshedding, one of the darkest moments in the history of state owned enterprise according to City Press. 

Oberholzer said that everything that could go wrong at Eskom on Monday went wrong. 

"It was a perfect storm. But that's not what the world wants to hear. The thought people get stuck with is: Loadshedding Stage 6. People forget that for 340 days of the year there was power," said Oberholzer. 

Stage 6 is the last thing that you need. You're busy failing. You're failing 55 million people. That's how you feel. And you know people are saying, ag, you lie about this and that.  

You don't trust us. I don't understand that, maybe things were said in the past that weren't the truth.

In his recounting of the day's events, Oberholzer said that they knew that the week might give them problems but they thought Stage 2 maybe a little higher but six was not on anybody's mind. 

Oberholzer said that throughout the morning he was relatively uncomfortable with the loss of additional units during the night. And then Medupi happened. Medupi is a construction site an done cable had already been damaged during construction. With the rain in the cable ditch they then lost the power supply. 

He said, "I was on the phone to Medupi the whole time and at a certain point I told myself to keep quiet now Jan, you're making making these guys anxious and they might begin to do other things wrong". 

According to the Chief Operations Officer, the main cause of the loadshedding was not sabotage or rain or whatever. After 12 years of neglecting our power stations, our system is unpredictable and unreliable. 

"I'm not talking about putting on a band aid, I mean that real deep maintenance is required," said Oberholzer. 

The Chief Operations Officer added, " And on top of that the Good Lord sent us rain. At more than ten units unplanned interruptions led to the first loadshedding. Five of them were as a result of boiler leaks which takes between  four to six days to repair". 

Camden, Tutuka and Kendal all had flooding and there were swimming pools in the power stations, the drainage was too slow. 

Then the Kriel open cast mine flooded completely in the area where conveyor belts bring coal to the power station, Not even a kilogram was getting out of there and then they had to turn off two of the six units. And because there wasn't any coal Eskom had to bring down the capacity of the four units from 500 to 200 megawatt per unit. 

Oberholzer has been the COO of Eskom since July 2018.

Eskom moves loadshedding to stage 6

Last week Monday, December 9th 2019, Eskom upped the loadshedding to stage 6 from stage 4. In a statement Eskom said that they regret and sincerely apologise that Stage 4 loadshedding moved to Stage 6 loadshedding from 18:00 to 23:00, as a result of a shortage of capacity caused by a number of unexpected events including the ones mentioned above. 

"We assure customers that loadshedding is a responsible act and highly controlled process, implemented to protect the country from a national blackout," said Eskom. 

Small businesses

Rolling blackouts by state-owned electricity utility Eskom are hurting small businesses the most, as many cannot afford fuel-powered generators for alternative sources of energy said one of South Africa's oldest trade unions UASA.

"South Africa is in deep trouble. We know there is no magic formula, and we don’t want a magic formula. What we want is a power utility that is responsibly managed, enabling South Africans to live quality lives and get on with their business enterprises," said UASA spokesman Stanford Mazhindu

Mazhindu added, "A short stroll down a busy small business area during load shedding indicates just how dire the situation is. People sitting outside because they cannot work. Kitchens, laundries, opticians, veterinary clinics are closed and therefore losing money". 

According to Mazhindu, micro businesses are hit the hardest as many cannot afford generators. Micro and medium sized business employers will soon be unable to afford to pay staff and more South Africans will join the masses of the unemployed.

Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, has been asked to negotiate with incoming Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter to begin his tenure earlier than expected. 

This is according to Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu, who briefed the media at a post Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. 

De Ruyter was expected to begin at Eskom in mid-January 2020, but has been asked to come in and take the helm at failing utility company as soon as possible. 

BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE