Shopkeeper serves a customer during an electricity load-shedding blackout. Picture: Reuters
Shopkeeper serves a customer during an electricity load-shedding blackout. Picture: Reuters

Load Shedding: Fury as blackouts hit small businesses hard

By Marvin Charles Time of article published Dec 11, 2019

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Cape Town - South Africans are furious and businesses are reeling following the sudden implementation of stage 6 load shedding by beleaguered power supplier Eskom.

On Monday, in an unprecedented move, Eskom was forced to implement stage 6 load shedding for the first time. According to Eskom, it was battling with capacity constraints caused by severe flooding and unplanned outages. Stage 6 load shedding allows up to 6000megawatts to be shed from the grid.

Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Geoff Jacobs said: “Smaller companies do take a bigger hit from electricity failures than larger companies. Those businesses who get their supply directly from Eskom, and not the City, are in a worse position when outages occur.”

Jacobs said the costs of back-ups were considerable for a small business. “Those based in shopping centres cannot operate generators because of fumes, general safety concerns and noise. Unless the centre has power back-up, they too have to shut down operations when an outage occurs,” Jacobs said.

Geoff Jacobs

Economist Dawie Roodt said the country was not in a good position. “This is costing the country a great deal. At the moment, what we are seeing is that the economy is buzzing and it’s becoming quite damaging on businesses.”

He said President Cyril Ramaphosa had shown he was incapable of getting to grips with the issue. “A few years ago, when Ramaphosa was in charge of the state’s entities, he promised that load shedding would be a thing of the past within two years.

“Two years later, we’ve seen no change.

“Eskom’s debt has ballooned and the current leadership has not taken any charge,” Roodt said.

The City on Tuesday warned residents that they could expect water interruptions as a result of load shedding. The City has the Steenbras Hydroelectric power scheme. Steenbras was the first hydroelectric pumped-storage scheme commissioned on the continent, with an installed capacity of 180MW. But according to the City, very little maintenance has been carried out.

MMC for energy and climate change Phindile Maxiti said: “We have worked our hydro plant hard and postponed major maintenance where possible to assist during load shedding.

“There is a serious impact on those industries that need continuous electricity supply for their production,” Maxiti added.

The City announced on Tuesday that it intended seeking permission from the Gauteng Judge President for an expedited hearing on its energy case, asking the Minister of Energy and the National Energy Regulator of SA to allow it to buy energy from independent power producers.

Small businesses have taken a knock. William Goliath, owner of Premium Sports Bar in Mitchells Plain, told the Cape Argus his business was unable to function properly and two of his TV sets had exploded because of the power cuts.

“In the space of two days, we have lost about 10 hours of business, and it’s having a huge impact on our staff being paid because there’s no production during load shedding,” he said.

Owner of The Grillfather, Shane Swiegelaar, was forced to close two of his branches. “We had two big staff parties, and because of load shedding, we couldn’t accommodate them. Because of all the power trips, our fan extractor in the kitchen is now broken and it will cost R8000 to replace.”

@MarvinCharles17

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Cape Argus

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