UPDATE: How does load shedding affect SA's main airports?

Table Mountain Cableway.
Table Mountain Cableway.

It's been really hard to keep track of which stage of load shedding we're in as Eskom took us from stage 4 to stage 6 in a flash - and then back down to stage 2.

In a briefing held on Wednesday, 11 December President Cyril Ramaphosa stated that there would likely be no load shedding between 17 December until 13 January - read News24's full update here

However, it comes after escalated blackouts - as power surges were blamed for failed back-up generators at the Table Mountain Cable Way during unexpected stage 6 power cuts were put in place. 

As a result, we wanted to know how essential travel services are ensured at SA's main airports when the power supply is interrupted - and  should the supply be impacted dramatically again? 

Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) has confirmed all nine of its airports have the ability to operate on diesel generators covering essential loads for between 18 and 72 hours.

"There are established routes for supply of diesel to international airports. All airports have diesel on hand."  

READ: Is December the worst (and most dangerous) time of the year for load shedding? 

Essential load services include:

  • navigational aids; 
  • check-in counters;
  • fuel systems;
  • passenger loading bridges (PLBs);
  • baggage handling systems (BHS);
  • central search points (CSPs);
  • lighting.  

Acsa says some of its airports are also able to run heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) at minimum load.  In addition, three airports - specifically George, Kimberley and Upington - have solar power for the bulk of their needs.

Tourism attraction readiness:

While visitors to our city have many attractions they can still enjoy with or without electricity the unexpected news that load shedding had gone up to Stage 6 brought an element of uncertainty, says Cape Town Tourism CEO Enver Duminy in a statement released by the tourism body. 

"That this is happening during the time of the year when we should be putting our best foot forward as a city and a country is only more troubling. In this situation, tourism operators are not sure what they can offer visitors and visitors are not sure what to expect."

Cape Town's tourist high season is prepped to welcome some 50 000 travellers from the UK alone over the December 2019 to March 2020 period - an increase of 30% from the same period last year. 

"All tourists expect us to keep our brand promise to keep them safe and make sure they have a memorable and enjoyable experience. Not being able to meet these expectations will result in fewer visitors, a drop in spending, fewer jobs, and more unemployment. As Cape Town Tourism, we urge all parties involved to resolve this situation with the urgency called for and in the meantime we will be keeping our members and visitors updated on all developments as and when we receive information from the relevant authorities."


Tips to prepare for Eskom’s load shedding: 

It is unclear when Eskom’s load shedding will end, with the City of Cape Town releasing the following tips and advice to best deal with the inconvenience. Damage caused by power surges are also avoidable, but it is important to be energy-wise - visit www.SavingElectricity.org.za for more tips: 

  • Communication - Ensure that your cell phone, laptop, tablet and radio are always fully charged when power is available. This will allow you to be able to communicate with friends and family during load-shedding.
  • Transport: Make sure that your vehicle always has fuel in the tank as most petrol stations are unable to pump fuel during power outages.
  • Cash: Keep some cash on you as ATMs cannot operate without electricity.
  • Security and safety: Backup batteries for electric gates, garage doors and security systems should be kept in a good working condition and be able to last through periods of load-shedding. Store temporary lighting such as battery-powered torches, gas lamps and candles in places where they will be easy to find in the dark.
  • Eating: If you do not have a gas stove, prepare meals before the power is scheduled to be switched off. Boil water in your kettle and keep it in thermos flasks for hot drinks. You can also use an insulating cover on teapots, pots and pans to keep drinks and meals warm.
  • Medication: Most medication requiring refrigeration can be kept in a closed fridge for several hours without spoiling, but you should check with your doctor or pharmacist if in doubt.
  • Traffic lights: Intersections with traffic lights that are not working because of load-shedding should be treated as four-way-stops. The motorist who stops first may proceed first if the way is clear and safe to do so. Please stay calm and follow defensive driving techniques.
  • Avoid power surges and nuisance tripping: If you know that your area will be affected by load-shedding, switch off appliances, geysers, pool pumps, air conditioners, lights and other electrical equipment to reduce the risk of damage caused when the power comes back on. Nuisance tripping can also occur and sometimes City teams will have to reset substations manually to restore power to a particular area. 
  • Switch off those appliances that you don’t need.
  • Switch off your geyser and only switch it on for up to two hours per day. This will save a lot of electricity and it will save you money.
  • Delay switching on lights and appliances until after the peak periods (between 17:00 and 21:00) whenever possible.
  • Switch off your pool pump, geyser and other large electrical equipment, and never run both at the same time.
  • Adjust air conditioners to 23 degrees Celsius if you need to use them.

UPDATE: Cape Town Tourism has issued this statement to Traveller24, following the Table Mountain Cableway load shedding delay:

"I could only fear for the people stuck midway," says Joburg resident Ronald Mutanhuki.

It was his very-first time up the mountain. He says he left this as the highlight of his trip to Cape Town, saving the best for last.

His flight was meant to depart just after 8:00pm on Monday evening, 9 December 2019. After being stuck on the mountain with what he estimates to be upwards of 150 people, he got back down to the bottom cableway station just before his flight was due to depart from Cape Town International Airport. 

"I got into the queue to come down at 4:15pm, by then it was winding to the cafe area, I ended up in front because of the flight."

At 6:20pm the Table Mountain Cableway posted to twitter saying it was experiencing technical issues. 

"To be honest, it wasn't a nice experience. It didn't make us look good, there were a lot of international tourists up there."

Though, he adds that during the wait people seemed rather calm.

"They gave us blankets as it got rather chilly at some point," says Ronald. People were also provided with water and snacks he says. Though, not everyone got their share according to him. 

Some tourists had reservations at "very hard-to-get-into restaurants in Franschhoek", while others, like Ronald had flights to catch. 

He says that though load shedding was initially listed as being the main issue for the cable car not operating as normal, he says the staff announced at one point that there were "other unrelated mechanical issues with the gears". 

The atmosphere then became increasingly frustrating, according to Ronald.

Speaking with the staff, he raised the issue that he had a flight to catch back to Joburg, plus he had to return his rental car. The staff apparently assured him that "all will be taken care" of once back at the bottom. 

"Around 7:15/7:30pm the first carrier came up. I was at the foot at 7:50 pm give or take."  

Ronald says that once they hit the ground, they were met by a representative from Cape Town Tourism, who offered them a night's accommodation in the St George's Mall area, as well as complimentary dinner and breakfast.

READ: What to do when your flight gets cancelled 

"And my flight?," he asked.

He explained that he was told  Cape Town Tourism "couldn't sort out and re-book flights that were missed", yet Ronald says the most frustrating part was that he was assured of this while still on the mountain.

It wasn't his demand that his flight be rebooked, as a result he didn't end up making other arrangements, as he understood "it's taken care of".

"I could have made other arrangements and taken the time to rebook my flight for that evening".  Ronald was only able to rebook a flight to leave Cape Town at 12pm on Tuesday, 10 December - forking out the extra cost himself.

READ: Table Mountain Cableway launches limited early access tickets for the festive season  

 Cape Town Tourism has since issued a statement saying, "The Cape Town Tourism Band-Aid programme forms part of Cape Town Tourism's safety and security initiatives and is usually activated to support their members who have visitors affected by any type of crime, with remedial support that includes, by way of example, assistance with travel arrangements and passport replacement.

"However, last night (9 December 2019) it was activated to assist visitors who were affected by yesterday's Stage 6 load-shedding which caused them to be stranded on Table Mountain.

"Cape Town Tourism worked with the industry to provide these guests with rental vehicles, dinner, accommodation for the night, and assistance with travel arrangements. Cape Town Tourism is proud of how the industry came together to help these visitors to our city in what must have been a very stressful situation."    

South Africa is in the grips of severe load shedding due to issues with power utility Eskom - affecting all and sundry - even popular tourist attractions and their back-up generators.

Power cuts are believed to be behind the delays that saw a group of tourists stuck on top of Africa's top attraction. 

At 6:20pm on 9 December 2019, Table Mountain Cableway posted to twitter saying it was experiencing technical issues - delaying cable car trips, with a group of tourists affected at the top of Table Mountain. 

One of the tourists caught at the top, Arash Sadighi posted a tweet complaining about 20-minute delays. At about 7:27pm Table Mountain Cableway posted that it had resolved its technical issues and would be getting everybody down as quickly as possible. 

Wahida Parker, MD of Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company has since issued a statement saying "power surges are believed to have caused the failure of our generator". 

"Table Mountain Aerial Cableway can confirm that visitors who were stuck on the top of the mountain earlier today when our backup generator failed to kick into gear, are now being safely brought down from the mountain."

Visitors who were at the bottom waiting to go up, have been offered free tickets for an alternative day.

"Our technical team is monitoring the impact of the sudden implementation of stage 6 load shedding, to best accommodate our visitors in a safe and responsible manner. We are doing everything within our power to make sure that any visitor's experience of Table Mountain is a positive one, even under these extreme conditions," says Parker. 

The Cableway later tweeted that all visitors were safely transported back down. 

The Cableway posted a message to Facebook stating that it is operational again, saying "our technical issue has been resolved and our cable car trips have resumed". 

Find Your Escape by signing-up for the Traveller24 Weekly Newsletter – Subscribe hereOr download the News24 App hereto receive expertly curated travel ideas and deals directly to your mobile.   

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
Voting Booth
With Faf de Klerk out injured, who should start at scrumhalf for the Springboks against Wales on 6 November?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Herschel Jantjies
33% - 433 votes
Cobus Reinach
64% - 850 votes
Grant Williams
3% - 45 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.