As thousands of matric leavers from upcountry descend on the city's coastal stretches for the annual Matric Rage festival, which kicks off today, the tourism industry has been urged to create contingency plans to avoid significant risk to the tourism and hospitality sectors.
While residents scramble to make arrangements to manage the two-hour power cuts, which could even darken Christmas Day as well, tourism and hospitality leaders worried about the negative impact that load shedding would have on the city, which expects to host hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers.
President of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Musa Makhunga, said: “With the festive period just around the corner, there is a significant risk to the tourism and hospitality sectors, and we hope Eskom can resolve the issues or provide greater certainty prior to the holidays so businesses can plan accordingly.
“The Durban Chamber encourages its members and the business community to ensure contingency plans are in place and they are well equipped to ensure production continues as normal. Durban and South Africa as a whole cannot afford load shedding as it has a severe economic impact and affects revenue generation across industries and value chains due to loss of productivity.”
Chairperson of uMhlanga Tourism Association, Peter Rose, said: “Load shedding at the start of the holiday season in any of the coastal cities is a disgrace, especially so for the whole of eThekwini which is the premier holiday destination for South Africa.”
Fedhasa KZN operations manager, Charles Preece, said they had hoped load shedding would not happen over the festive season. “South Africans have more than enough stress in their lives and do not deserve to be given such poor service by a state-owned enterprise that is forever demanding more and more of taxpayers’ money. When people are inconvenienced they tend to have a less enjoyable time. And hospitality workers, lest we forget their role, will be under greater pressure,” said Preece.
Economist Dawie Roodt weighed in, stating that load shedding “will certainly have an impact on tourists coming to Durban”.
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But because it’s the time of year when industry shuts down, the impact nationally would be lessened.
“If we hadn’t had problems with Eskom over the last 10 years, South Africa’s economy would be 10% bigger at least, which translates into one million jobs. It could be significantly more. This government has cost South Africa very dearly. But Eskom has new management in place, so they are trying to deal with this,” said Roodt.
Local resident Desmond D’Sa, co-ordinator of the environmental justice organisation South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, said people with hard-earned savings would suffer.
“People with not much means have been buying meat for the year-end, using their whole year’s savings. And now load shedding can end up destroying food. This is also the busiest season for small businesses, when they can recover any losses. It’s a tragedy that Eskom decides to load shed,” he said.
D’Sa lashed out at Eskom and said it was “a damn shame” South Africa still had to live with Eskom problems.
“It shows the corruption scandal is deeper and wider than was revealed to citizens. People should be brought to account. There is no reason not to prosecute. We don’t need commissions. We need prosecutions.
“If Eskom management cannot do their job, they must leave. They must employ qualified and decent people,” he said.
Ben Modikwe, the KwaZulu-Natal chairperson of the Active Citizenship Movement, predicted a spike in crime. “When it’s dark, criminals are free to do as they please. They like the darkness. Citizens will need to be vigilant. We need state-owned enterprises to be partly privatised. That’s the only way out of this,” he said.
Meanwhile, the head of Durban Tourism, Philip Sithole, said the power outages were a national issue and would not deter visitors from coming to Durban.
“Obviously, it’s an inconvenience, but there are no alternatives. Locals and visitors will be encouraged to look at times and areas to be affected,” he said.
eThekwini Municipality urged customers to reduce their consumption to ease the demand for power, by switching off non-essential appliances.
The load-shedding schedule is available at https://bit.ly/11KH4du
For any other electricity-related issues that might arise, residents can also contact the City’s Electricity call centre on 080 13 13 111; SMS: 083 700 0819 or email [email protected]Independent On Saturday