Durban -The announcement that the load-shedding exemption granted by Eskom to eThekwini Municipality is to come to an end has triggered panic among residents, who fear this could destroy local businesses.
The business sector, ratepayers organisations and opposition parties in the council said the city’s infrastructure was too fragile to cope.
The municipality announced this week that Durban would return to the national load-shedding schedule later this month. Residents in the metro are currently only affected by load shedding once it reaches Stage 4 and higher.
Janus Horn, the chairperson of the Manor Garden Ratepayers’ Association and a business owner, said: “As a business I will not be able to afford the additional diesel costs. Many times after we go off, we only come back hours later due to overload problems. We never get credited for these additional hours off-line. This will be an absolute disaster for the economy in Durban.
“Glenwood and parts of Manor Gardens were off for between 12 and 30 hours last week, and the technician said it was due to vandalism in other areas feeding back this way. The infrastructure will not cope.”
Brett Jennings, chairperson of the Montclair Ratepayers’ Association, said the move would have an adverse affect on businesses that could not afford generators or solar power.
“We also have a large retired, elderly population in the area and some are on oxygen, too. This causes complications.”
Palesa Phili, the chief executive of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said organised business was deeply concerned.
“Load shedding severely affects the economy, resulting in loss of productivity, which inevitably leads to revenue losses. As organised business, we are at a critical state in the City of eThekwini, and we believe the implementation of a new load-shedding schedule will worsen economic losses,” she said.
Phili urged Durban mayor Mxolisi Kaunda and his heads of departments to reconsider the decision.
She also said the city should make adequate provision for the South Durban Basin, adding that the city’s electricity infrastructure in the area had experienced severe damage because of the floods.
The DA called on Kaunda to hold a special executive committee meeting to discuss the matter.
“While it may be business as usual for the ANC and officials in the city, residents of eThekwini will face up to eight hours a day without electricity, without the guarantee the lights will come back on due to the state of the grid,” said DA councillor Thabani Mthethwa.
IFP councillor Mdu Nkosi said the city had not recovered from recent
natural and man-made disasters, and that the load-shedding exemption should continue.
ANC councillor Nkosenhle Madlala said the municipality should fast-track the implementation of the city’s energy-
transformation strategy that was approved early this year.
“The strategy will help the city look for alternative forms of energy sources and reduce its dependency on Eskom. To mitigate the impact of load shedding on the poor, the ANC intends tabling a motion to council for the introduction of an emergency relief programme that will enable it to assist poor households with items such as rechargeable lights, and gas/paraffin stoves,” said Madlala.