JOHANNESBURG, October 16 – South Africa’s main opposition Democratic Alliance on Wednesday warned cash-strapped state power utiity Eskom against using rolling blackouts as a bargaining tool for more money.
The company said it was implementing “stage 2” rotational loadshedding from 9am to 11pm — which involves suppressing 2,000MW of demand to avoid tripping the national power grid — citing a shortage of capacity.
The move comes after Eskom, which was forced to impose similar powercuts earlier this year as it struggled to meet demand, last Friday said the National Energy Regulator of South Africa’s (NERSA) decision in March to award it lower annual tariff increases than requested had worsened its financial sustainability.
South African municipalities also owe the entity billions of rand in unpaid bills, adding on to Eskom’s woes which critics have largely blamed on mismanagment and corruption.
Last month, Eskom assured the public there would be no planned blackouts for September and October, in response to revelations by the DA that the utility had warned municipalities of that possibility.
On Wednesday, DA shadow minister of public enterprises Natasha Mazzone said the company’s assurances now rang hollow.
“The re-occurrence of rolling blackouts come as no surprise to the DA as we have long held the view that Eskom’s turnaround strategies and recovery plans have amounted to nothing,” she said in a statement.
“Eskom has dragged NERSA to court to challenge its decision in March which allowed for tariff increases below what Eskom had applied for. In addition to this, the utility will also be expecting a substantial bailout in finance minister Tito Mboweni’s upcoming medium-term budget policy statement.”
“The DA warns Eskom against using rolling blackouts as a bargaining tool for more money,” Mazzone added.
She said the rolling blackouts would have serious consequences for South Africa’s struggling economy and negatively impact the conduct of just-started national examinations for students finish high school this year.
“Eskom’s monopoly on the production of energy needs to be broken as it hampers economic growth and education,” Mazzone said of the utility, which produces about 95 percent of South Africa’s electricity.
“However, the ANC (African National Congress) government would rather see the country plunge into darkness than to put its pride aside to bring on board Independent Power Producers to stabilise and diversify the grid.”
– African News Agency (ANA),