The fall in the index was particularly amplified by the plunge in the new orders index, which plummeted from 49.8 points to a five-month low of 42.3 points. Capital Economics economist John Ashbourne said the poor reading had been widely blamed on the return of power cuts during the month.
“Eskom was forced to impose cuts in February after shut-downs at several key generators. We've always argued that the economic pain caused by so-called load shedding is pretty small, though it does disproportionately fall on energy-intensive sectors like manufacturing,” Ashbourne said.
The power utility last month struggled to keep the lights on - at one stage the utility withheld 4000 megawatts of demand off the national grid.
Eskom’s request for it to be granted a tariff increase of more than 45percent over the next three years was also expected to add pressure on the manufacturing industry. The government last week announced plans to establish a technical operations and maintenance review team for Eskom in its latest attempt to resurrect the embattled utility, whose debt was the main driver of the wider deficit targets announced in the Budget.