A staff member packs away books by the light of a mobile phone during an electricity load-shedding blackout in a shopping centre in Cape Town. Photo: African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town – South Africans should brace for more rolling blackouts this week after Eskom implemented stage 4 load shedding yesterday.

The embattled power utility “unexpectedly lost six additional generating units, which has put additional strain on the system”.

Its spokesperson, Khulu Phasiwe, said Eskom management had met with Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan yesterday to find a solution.

“This situation is not ideal, but there is no reason for panic as Eskom is doing everything they can to avoid a system collapse. 

"The system is under severe pressure and it is very difficult to say how long the load shedding phase will continue, but there was a projection that the system may stay vulnerable until April.”

Phasiwe said the technical faults were being experienced at a combination of power stations.

“We try our best to inform our clients at least two hours before the time about power outages whenever we move from one phase to another that could affect their areas. 

"I cannot comment on the speculation that this was a lack of foresight, but we are doing our best to resolve the issue,” he said.

Stage 4 calls for 4 000MW to be rotationally load shed nationally at a given period.

Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Janine Myburgh questioned the six generating units shutting down. 

“Sabotage was blamed for a previous bout of load shedding, but the form it took was never explained to the public, except for workers who prevented coal deliveries from taking place. 

"Stage 4 load shedding is very serious indeed and it will affect commerce and industry. This will also affect the jobs of other workers, especially in heavy industry and it is time that workers whose jobs are at risk raised their voices.”

She also pointed out that the new crisis would affect business confidence.

“To make matters worse, the blow has come in the middle of the tourist season and at a vital time for agriculture, two of our most important industries. 

"In the long term it would also mean more businesses and home owners making decisions to go off-grid, leading to further problems for Eskom and its staff.”

V&A Waterfront spokesperson Donald Kau said they had been affected by power outages since Sunday.

“We’ve had power outages due to load shedding of three hours (on Sunday) and an hour and half (yesterday) morning, which will be negatively impacting trading. I can’t give you an indication on the impact on sales and revenues at this time,” Kau said.

Mayco member for energy Phindile Maxiti has urged residents to plan ahead and to follow a few simple tips to ensure that they stay connected, healthy and safe. 

“Ensure that your cellphone, laptop, tablet and radio are always fully charged when power is available. Make sure that your vehicle always has fuel in the tank as most petrol stations are unable to pump fuel during power outages.

“Back-up batteries for electrically operated gates, garage doors and security systems should be kept in a good working condition and be able to last through periods of load shedding.

The Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA has urged hospitals and clinics management to ensure that back-up generators are well-maintained and fully serviced, as many health facilities may get affected by power outages.

To see when load shedding will affect you, visit www.loadshedding.eskom.co.za