President calls for swift action on devastating power cuts

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President Cyril Ramaphosa says the ongoing load shedding is devastating for the country, causing our economy great harm and disrupting the lives of citizens.

Eskom announced on Monday that it will increase its load shedding from Stage 4 to Stage 6. The power utility says this is as a result of a shortage of capacity following a technical problem at Medupi power station, impacting additional generation supply.

The President says he has been in constant communication with the Minister of Public Enterprises and the leadership of the electricity utility on the state of the national grid and on the work being done to address the current crisis.

“Our immediate priority is to get as much generating capacity back on line within the shortest possible time. Eskom’s emergency response command centre and technical teams are working around the clock to fix multiple breakdowns.

He adds, “The anger and frustration that this load shedding has caused is understandable. It is essential at this time that all stakeholders work together to restore adequate supply of electricity in the shortest time. We call on all South Africans, especially energy intensive users, to reduce consumption at this time.”

 Load shedding affecting consumers

Eskom board Chairperson Jabu Mabuza says the power utility fully understands how load shedding is affecting its consumers. The cut was the largest since Eskom introduced rolling blackouts in 2008. The move followed what Eskom described as unprecedented heavy rain and flooding that triggered failures at the power utility’s Medupi plant.

Supplies to businesses and households across the country have been disrupted. Mabuza says the heavy rains have caused coal handling and operational problems at several station.

“The effect is – it flooded all our open cast mines. It has flooded some of our mines, we had to shut down Camden as the whole power station was flooded and the impact of rain also manifests on the coal side. So these rains have been unprecedented.”

Earlier the power utility said that its system was still highly constrained. Eskom spokesperson Dikatso Mothae has asked customers to use electricity responsibly to help to reduce the level of load shedding.

“For now in terms of Stage 6 this will continue until 11 o’clock this evening. However, we must inform customers that we’re likely to continue with load shedding, that at what stage we’ll be in a better position to advise later on this evening once we’ve seen how the system has performed up until the evening.”

Impact on SA economy

Business owners in the North West are feeling the pinch of load shedding. They say they’re finding it difficult to operate without electricity – a situation which is forcing them to turn customers away. These business owners say they have lost thousands of rand.

“This load shedding is a problem and those who are coming for lunch it’s disaster and I have to pay R27 000 for rent and also I have to pay the employees. So where am I going to get that money?”

“Last week I lost more R7000. Load shedding is affecting us and now we are on festive season and I lost so many customers.”

The country has been experiencing blackouts since last week. Business owners are also worried they may have to close shops as a result.

Eskom’s Chief Operating Officer, Jan Oberholzer explains: “Kriel mine was flooded so we couldn’t get any coal, so we shut down two units. This will just give you an idea what the excess rain actually meant to us on two of our other power stations. The power stations actually had excessive flooding inside – so all of this obviously brought about a loss of 4000 megawatts during the day and that necessitated unfortunately that we go into this uncharted territory to go to Stage 6 load shedding.”