South Africa on Friday experienced its second consecutive day of load shedding, with power outages likely to continue over the weekend.
Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said that stage 1 load shedding started at 11:30 and would continue until 21:00 due to "multiple trips of its power generation units".
On Friday evening Phasiwe tweeted that stage 1 load shedding had been lifted at 19:16 and that the restoration of power could take "a little longer" in some municipalities.
Reasons given by Eskom for the load shedding was because a number of power generating units had been broken down. "We are in the process of assessing what the cause of this breakdown is," said Phasiwe.
Earlier he said that acts of "intimidation and sabotage" were continuing at some of Eskom’s power stations.
Stage 1 load shedding means that 1 000 MW of electricity needs to be shed in order to prevent the national grid from becoming severely damaged.
In a separate power update Eskom said there was a "high risk of load shedding over the weekend".
"Eskom calls on all consumers to assist by reducing their electricity consumption by switching off geysers, electric heating, pool pumps, and all non-essential appliances throughout the day."
Energy expert Chris Yelland said that even though Eskom has had operational challenges for years, business was most likely unprepared for load shedding.
"We were informed a week ago that [the] load shedding risk is extremely low," he said on Friday. "We know that this [load shedding] comes from labour unrest, but the fact that Eskom told us last week ago that there was no chance of load shedding, and a week later stage one load shedding is announced, kind of shows that nobody was prepared for this," he said.
Eskom spokesperson Dikatso Mothae earlier told Fin24 that some power station workers were being intimidated to prevent them from going to work, with sporadic pickets taking place.
"Such challenges might lead to unstable supply," she said. "There is also a risk [due to] people who are deliberately tampering with machines as part of sabotaging operations," she said.
The power utility had on Thursday afternoon obtained a court interdict barring employees from going on strike. This came after SA experienced load shedding from 17:00 to 20:00 following nationwide pickets by Eskom employees at power stations.
By Friday afternoon, Mothae had confirmed that arrests were made against those in violation to the interdict.
Eskom workers are demanding a 15% wage increase, but the cash-strapped power generator has been unable to offer salary adjustments. Negotiations are set to resume.
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), Solidarity, and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) have declared a dispute with the employer. These have been referred to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration for mediation.
Numsa spokesman Phakamile Hlubi said the company on Thursday backtracked from its offer to set up a meeting with the Eskom's board to discuss wage demands."We were promised a meeting with the Eskom board but we were later informed that it would no longer take place," said Hlubi.
Hlubi said the union was not keen on negotiating directly with Eskom CEO Phakamani Hadebe, as it is the board that can make decisions on wage adjustments.
Numsa sent out a statement on Friday afternoon rejecting Eskom's claims that members were sabotaging power supply. "Eskom has no evidence to back up allegations that our members are responsible for sabotaging power supply," the statement read.
"On Wednesday the CEO bragged that Eskom had a contingency plan to deal with any disruptions. They must not blame us now that their contingency plans have failed."
The union further asserted that its members were not striking, but picketing.
Pickets to continue
NUM spokesperson Livuwani Mammburu told Fin24 on Friday morning that the union would continue with lunchtime pickets at Eskom, as this was during a time when no labour could be expected. He said NUM was well within its rights to demonstrate in this matter.
Asked about claims from Eskom that those demonstrating at the power utility’s facilities were sabotaging the power system and intimidating workers that were not demonstrating, Mammburu denied all accusations against the union.
"We don’t know anything about sabotage. We hear those allegations. We are exercising our rights and we are not intimidating anyone. There is no instruction or act of intimidation or sabotage by NUM," he said.
Metros give updates on load shedding schedules
City Power Johannesburg on Friday afternoon tweeted out schedules of areas to be affected for the remainder of the day.
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