Load shedding: More than just a Lodark frustration

2019-04-16 10:13

Listening to the morning bulletin before breakfast, I wasn't surprised when the reader said that Eskom would be implementing stage two, and consequently stage four, load shedding the same day.

If you live in South Africa, you may know that load shedding has been the dark spook around since 2007/8 and speculation has it that the daunting occurrence will continue unabated.

The embattled power utility Eskom is now failing to deliver on its mandate to deliver a stable supply of electricity to the nation.

With a total debt of R420 billion, the crisis is nowhere near an end and we should expect more nights with candles. 

According to Eskom, Stage 2 load shedding calls for 2000 megawatts to be rotationally load shed nationally at a given period. Stage 4 calls for double that amount to be load shed.

A major contributor to the outages is the poor performance of the Medupi and Kusile power stations - two new facilities which were meant to ease the pressure on the supply but which have seemingly failed to do so. Combined, the two have tripped 87 times during the current financial year.

In a presentation given to the portfolio committee on public enterprises, the department detailed how costs to build Medupi and Kusile have increased by more than R300-billion — reaching R145-billion for Medupi and R161.4-billion for Kusile.

In fact, highlighting the Medupi and Kusile issues would need another entire column by itself.

Now, many may pass it on just as another chunky portion of the day without electricity, but in fact, the impact is much more serious than that whilst Eskom has admitted that the nightmare could leap into April, as the utilities troubles increase one by one.

Consider these factors:

Electricity is the turbine of the economy. A stop to the supply of the resource is an impediment to almost all activity across all industries.

Small businesses are the hardest hit. They seldom have back up equipment to keep them working for hours, daily, during outages.
Consider the entrepreneur selling baked goods on the beachfront. How likely is it that he's prepared for four hours of no electricity per day, prolonged over a week in most cases?

Then we look at electronic infrastructure such as cellphone masts, computers and even the basic kettle in the kitchen.
When the power returns, it's bound to come at a surge which is capable of damaging the appliances and machinery. That's another burdensome cost the victims must pay for.

Also, approximately 1 million Grade 12 learners will be writing the NSC examinations at the end of the year and it is under common attribute that these matriculants start preparations during first term.

Unfortunately, the affect of load shedding results in the inability to study efficiently as access of technology internet and sufficient work lighting is denied. Frequent load shedding obstructs a learner's full potential to study and prepare for upcoming exams. 

Learners who grew up having easy access to electronics and electricity may find it difficult to adjust their schedules to the ever fluctuating load shedding schedules and, hence, may not be able to study to the best of their ability.

This results in poor performance and another stain on our already poor education track record.

Wait. Who couldn't forget crime? Criminals are always lurking around, awaiting an opportunity to pounce on unsuspecting and often defenceless victims. 

Load shedding is the perfect opportunity for their unruliness. Burglary incidents and generally all crimes are known to spike during these periods of blackout. 

This comes in addition to an already unsafe environment in this country.

So, as a taxpayer, I'm paying for undelivered services whilst also paying the costs incurred by crime being perpetrated on myself/property; and if I can afford it, the cost of purchasing and running a mini power station in my house known as a generator.

Join the conversation. Follow Zahid Jadwat on Twitter: @zahidjadwat


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