The catastrophic impact of load shedding: Will the economy recover?

File picture: Itumeleng English

File picture: Itumeleng English

Published Jan 22, 2023


By Professor Bonke Dumisa

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s January 8 Statement when the ANC was celebrating its 111th anniversary in Bloemfontein made four important points that are directly linked to the catastrophic impact of Eskom’s load shedding on the South African economy:

Ramaphosa said people across the country were going through tough times; that the energy crisis undermines economic growth and investment prospects; that persistent load shedding destroys businesses and compromises the production of food and provision of social services such as water, sanitation, community safety, education and health.

One of the ANC resolutions at its recent 55th elective conference conference specifically said the government must accelerate the resolution of the energy crisis to end load shedding.

This just shows how seriously the ANC takes the issue of electricity load shedding and that the party realises that if the Eskom load shedding is not effectively resolved now, that may cost it both the provincial and national elections in 2024.

Some of the country’s top economists have pronounced as follows on the continuing Eskom load shedding:

Isiah Mhlanga, Alexander Forbes chief economist, said Eskom’s prolonged stage 6 load shedding was causing significant damage to the country’s economy, wiping off more than R4 billion from GDP for each day it continues.

Another economist, Francis Stofberg, said that the South African economy could at least be 8% to 10% larger if there was no Eskom load shedding.

It is an established fact that in just the year 2022 South Africa had more than 200 days of Eskom load shedding; and that South Africa has had non-stop continuous load shedding for at least the past 60 days or so.

The country’s gross domestic product for the second quarter of 2022 contracted by -0.7%, mostly attributed to rolling blackouts.

The 2022 third quarter GDP results were positive albeit compared to a negative base; there were concerns though that Eskom’s load shedding continued to seriously negatively affect the economy.

The latest economic indicators for the fourth quarter already show Eskom continues to damage the economy: The Manufacturing Production figures for November 2022 showed a contraction of -1.1% year-on-year. The Mining Production figures for November 2022 showed a contraction of - 0.9% year-on-year.

One edition of the Sowetan this week listed a very long list of Small Medium and Micro Enterprises, SMMEs, that have already been forced to close down due to Eskom’s load shedding.

One radio station decided to dedicate at least one full hour to interviewing owners of small businesses that are battling to survive in mostly black town areas. All of them gave very painful accounts of how this continuous load shedding is destroying their businesses.

There is a painful video making the rounds on social media showing one farm where more than 50 000 chickens had died all at once due to complications caused by load shedding and farmers having to use a lot of diesel during such load shedding.


Resolving the Eskom problem will need the political will to embark on a multi-pronged approach, where the government must not just focus on the symptoms of Eskom’s load shedding but on the actual causes of Eskom’s problems. The South African economy will never fully recover until the following matters have been fully and effectively addressed:

All those Eskom staff members who are fingered in corruption and the sabotaging of Eskom infrastructure must be arrested and successfully charged and prosecuted.

All those Eskom service providers who are fingered on corruption and the sabotaging of Eskom infrastructure must be arrested and successfully charged and prosecuted.

There is a lot of collusion between corrupt Eskom employees and corrupt Eskom service providers that has been uncovered, and many such staff members and service providers were arrested and charged. There has unfortunately been very slow progress, if any, in seeing most of these criminals joining the orange overalls club, being imprisoned.

There are unfortunately high levels of increasing lawlessness in South Africa, as clearly highlighted by Ramaphosa in his January 8 Statement.

The government must proactively use the full might of the law in dealing with the lawlessness as it relates to Eskom load-shedding. It has already indicated that with the stationing of SANDF personnel at the major power stations.


The recent Johannesburg CIty Power’s campaign to cut off electricity to all non-paying households or businesses must be replicated in all parts of the country, including Kennedy Road in Durban where there is a substation where all and sundry steal electricity as they please.

They must also cut off all municipalities that receive electricity payments from the public but choose not to pass it on to Eskom.

* Professor Bonke Dumisa is an independent economic analyst