The Star journalist Sibongile Mashaba seen working with the light of her cellphone. Nhlanhla Phillips African News Agency (ANA)
The past three days of stage 4 load shedding has cost the country’s economy at least R12billion, and experts have warned it could take five years to “sort this mess out”.

This amount is expected to increase after Eskom announced it would be rolling out load shedding for the rest of the week, saying there was “no cause for alarm”.

The power utility started implementing rational load shedding on Thursday, starting with stage 1. Energy expert Chris Yelland said that if this occurred for 13 hours a day, it would cost the country R1bn a day.

Small businesses such as restaurants, hair salons and internet shops have been the worst affected in Joburg's CBD.

“Rent is very expensive and I do not know if I will be able to pay it this month. The power cuts have crippled my business,” said one city barber.

Soweto-based business coach Noughty Maluleke said he had lost R6000 on Monday.

“I had to cancel seven booked office consultations at R870 each. If this continues, I’m bound to lose about R30000 a week” said Maluleke.

Business Partners Limited chief financial officer Siphethe Dumeko warned that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) may not be able to reach their targets amid the load shedding.

“One of the biggest issues currently affecting SMEs is their access to reliable electricity and the impact of load shedding. (About) 68% of SMEs say that their businesses might not reach growth targets as a result of the power cuts,” Dumeko said.

At the weekend, Eskom said it had lost capacity after powerlines in Mozambique were destroyed in the devastating cyclone Idai on Friday.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has also warned of “tough days ahead” while apologising for the blackouts.

“Eskom is going through some challenges. We are very sorry to South Africans for this type of crisis that this load shedding has plunged our country into but I am certain that we are going to turn it around in the next two to three days,” he said.

On Friday, Eskom moved to implement stages 2 and 3. Stage 4 was implemented from Saturday and is expected to continue this week.

Eskom was continuing with the implementation of stage 4 on Tuesday. The power utility last implemented load shedding last month.

Yelland reiterated that the country was experiencing load shedding in summer and that it was a crisis.

Another energy expert, Ted Blom, echoed his sentiments, adding that poor management at Eskom and poor maintenance of infrastructure had led to the crisis. “It will take five years to sort this mess out. Eskom is on a cliff. I expect five years of load shedding,” said Blom.

He added that new management was needed at Eskom.

The utility has tried to allay fears about the dark days facing the country despite the blackout crisis.

“We remind customers that load shedding at stage 4 is no cause for alarm as the system is being effectively controlled. Load shedding is a highly controlled process, implemented to protect the system and to prevent a total collapse of the system or a national blackout.

“During stage 4 load shedding about 80% of the country’s demand is still being met," the utility said in a statement last night.

"Eskom maintenance teams are working round the clock to return generation units to the electricity system.”

University of Stellenbosch School of Security and African Studies Ntsikelelo Benjamin Breakfast said: “The issue of Eskom is going to have an influence on the political balance of the votes cast on election day.”