Public Enterprise Minister Pravin Gordhan’s admission that he is unable to say when the rotational blackouts will come to an end is a clear indication of the trouble South Africa finds itself in.
Of course, there is no magic formula as Gordhan mentioned in his media briefing on Tuesday morning, but as a nation, and more specifically UASA as a union that looks out for its members, we had hoped that the crisis would be solved earlier than the 10-14 days Gordhan said it might take to get a better grasp of the system. In addition, there is now talk of implementing Stage 5 and 6 load shedding.
Clearly the power utility has no idea how to resolve its current issues.
It is almost unthinkable that the knowledge base at Eskom has deteriorated to such an extent that a technical review task team, assisted by independent engineers, had to be appointed to examine plant unavailability due to scheduled maintenance; plant unavailability due to unplanned outages and unscheduled maintenance; operator errors resulting in power plants tripping and shutting down; and technical and operator-associated inefficiencies resulting in lower than optimum electricity output from the power station units.
The cumulative effect and cost of load shedding on the average South African must be devastating. Over and above the billions of rand a day lost due to load shedding, there are other effects on the man in the street that hardly get a mention such as
- the loss of cell phone signals impacting doing business or one’s job
- security concerns during the extended load shedding periods
- many productive hours lost in traffic
- ever looming challenges with companies that are heavily dependent on electricity and threats of closures and restructuring
- banks and other businesses closing at the most inconvenient times, preventing transactions being concluded
- hours more spent in traffic and traffic jams because of traffic lights not working
- instead of homemade meals, workers must deal with the extra expense of buying fast foods and takeaways for their families, probably in far off neighbourhoods where load shedding occurs at different hours
A short stroll down a busy small business area during load shedding indicates just how dire the situation is. People sitting outside because they cannot work. Kitchens, laundries, opticians, veterinary clinics are closed and therefore losing money. Micro businesses are hit the hardest as many cannot afford generators. Micro and medium sized business employers will soon be unable to afford to pay staff and more South Africans will join the masses of the unemployed.
Gordhan and Eskom need to develop a clear idea of what is needed to resolve the crisis before it is too late.
For further enquiries or to set up a personal interview, contact Stanford Mazhindu at 074 978 3415.