JOHANNESBURG - When I walked into a mall on Monday evening for a cosy dinner date, Eskom had just announced that the country would sail on uncharted waters with Stage 6 load shedding.
Retail stores and restaurants were plunged into darkness, and those who had no alternative sources of power had to close shop before time.
A few workers idling outside a popular burger joint were a dark metaphor how jobs are actually intertwined with a stable supply of electricity.
It’s one thing to have one’s dinner plans cancelled so abruptly, but another for a business whose bottom line, overhead costs, rent and other obligations are not redeemable in Eskom’s business model.
With Eskom chipping more megawatts from the national grid, the morning drive home to work has become longer with many traffic lights dysfunctional. We are burning more fuel than usual.
In the afternoon one is forced to eat out or force down takeaways because there's no power to cook a healthy meal. We are unwittingly gaining weight and cannot even jog in the dark streets in the evenings. The consequences of this lifestyle will be dire for a whole generation to come.
Since the introduction of this recent bout of power cuts, South Africa’s economy has bled billions of rand in lost productivity as production grinds to a halt, threatening millions of jobs in the process.
Stage 2 load shedding alone is estimated to shed R2 billion a day. More money is lost as Eskom ramps up higher and frequent stages of power cuts.
Because we have never experienced it before, Stage 6 load shedding has left many confused as to what is to be expected next.
If Eskom is not rescued, only those who have fat wallets are going to have lights on in the future and the rest of us will remain in the stone age.
Stage 6 is a shock therapy we never even imagined in Africa's most economy. It might be necessary for stabilizing the overly constrained system, but the side effects are far too severe for everyone involved.
Some now say the following stage will be when Eskom comes into our homes to blow off the candles. It reminds me of when pay TV had an "open time" when I was growing up and we could not afford it.
If you miss Eskom's "open time" you're likely to not do anything productive with your life.
This should shock us all, but there is no electricity. A good joke is being told on social media that the “E” in South Africa stands for “electricity”. Well, there’s no “E” in South Africa, neither is electricity.
Our already weak growth forecast of 0.5 percent this year now looks like a pipe dream.
Ratings agencies are waiting on the wings with an axe, ready to chop off the little of what is left of our sovereign credit rating status. And we are a sitting duck to be frogmarched into junk status.
It’s a double blow for the struggling businesses after Eskom inflicted a gaping wound to the consciousness of South Africa earlier this year.
Stage 6 load shedding now, with the Christmas break around the corner, has left all of us breathing through the wound, as Outsurance's famous man would say.