Load shedding crippled business, caused chaos

2014-03-07 00:00

YESTERDAY’S emergency load shedding by Eskom earned the ire of Pietermaritzburg residents and business owners.

A load shedding schedule issued during the day was not adhered to and cuts were erratic, lasting longer than scheduled.

Crippled for much of the day, business owners complained of having to pay staff who could not work without electricity.

Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business CEO Melanie Veness said the outage caused “utter chaos”.

“The biggest problem was the lateness of the notification. If businesses knew in advance, they could have planned. It is not as simple as just switching off. If a furnace is switched off in a big operation, it takes four hours to start up again,” she said.

Veness said the chamber and municipality spent much of the day “putting out fires” trying to get information from Eskom to relay to businesses.

“Communication is critical in this instance and helps everyone,” she said.

Most hospitals continued to function with the use of generators, as did many schools.

There were no reports of schools shutting down for the day, but many boarding schools were inconvenienced when service providers could not supply items for meals.

While most larger restaurants were not affected, as they had generators, smaller businesses wrote the day off.

Playday’s Kate Clarence said she had a freezer full of ice-cream that had melted.

“I’ve also had to get rid of fresh produce because the fridges were off for a while,” she said.

A city panel beater said the day was “a waste” for him.

“There was not much we could do as our business is quite reliant on electricity — our spray booth, spray guns and polishing devices all use electricity,” said the businessperson.

Gas supply outlets, however, had no complaints as they did brisk business. Several owners said they experienced increases of at least 20% in business from people filling gas cylinders.

Supermarkets across the city were abuzz with people buying candles, paraffin lamps, torches and matches.

Msunduzi Municipality committed itself to placing traffic officers at busy intersections if load shedding continues today, after gridlocks yesterday.

Msunduzi spokesperson Madeleine Plaatjies said the municipality was only informed of Eskom’s plan for load shedding yesterday morning. She said they would update the public regarding changes in the schedule.

Later, she said Eskom had indicated that the load the municipality was required to drop had reduced from 73MVA to 37MVA, meaning that the number of areas to be affected if load shedding continues today would be drastically reduced.

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