Msunduzi Municipality and city businesses were caught on the hop by Eskom’s latest severe round of load shedding, amid warnings of catastrophic consequences.According to the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business (PCB) some businesses, particularly those whose operations rely heavily on electricity, are losing millions of rands due to loss of productivity.“Apart from the loss of productivity there is damage to machinery, workers need to get paid when they can’t produce and orders are delayed, risking customer relationships,” PCB CEO Melanie Veness said.Eskom implemented Stage 3 load shedding after the failure of seven of its power generation units. By last night six were back in operation. The new round of power outages happen as the Pietermaritzburg economy is groaning under the weight of disinvestment, crumbling infrastructure and joblessness.Veness said the latest outages were likely to have a catastrophic impact on struggling businesses.“It would be far better in these circumstances to give capacity rather than to shut down completely. What Eskom is visiting on our economy is unforgivable. The least they could do is put more thought into the impacts and try to mitigate some of the effects,” she said.Acting general manager for infrastructure services Brenden Sivparsad said Msunduzi’s loadshedding schedule was determined by an instruction from Eskom. He said sometimes the municipality did not shed according to the stages given by the power utility because of faults with its own infrastructure. Sivparsad said when they had unplanned power outages the City automatically shed electricity and sometimes that was enough to meet the load that Eskom required them to give back to the grid. He said if they were ever asked to do stage 4 load shedding, they would not leave one area without power for four hours but would distribute it to two areas at a time for two hours each.Sivparsad said Msunduzi was liaising with the PCB to try and meet business halfway as some factories were losing a lot of production time as their machinery had to be powered down an hour before the City shed the load then required another hour to power up when electricity came back on. “We are busy trying to formulate an agreement with business because they have indicated that in the period that they were supposed to shed, they don’t want to stop production but will cut down to 70% to save electricity,” he said. The outages come days after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced plans to unbundle the loss-making Eskom into three separate entities — generation, transmission and distribution. There has been speculation on social media platforms that the breakdown of Eskom’s power generation units was a deliberate act aimed at frustrating Ramaphosa’s plans to rein in corruption, inefficiency and poor management at the power utility.ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said: “What is coming out clearly is that this is nothing but an act of sabotage.”However, the IFP said the power outages were simply the continuation of Eskom management’s incompetence, poor planning and corruption as opposed to sabotage.Moody’s Investors Service said in a research report published on Tuesday that Eskom’s reserve margin is likely to remain tight until at least the mid-2020s.