Eskom CEO Andre De Ruyter has warned that South Africa’s electricity grid is under heavy pressure. This has resulted in the escalation of loadshedding to stage 6 in the coming hours. Stage 6 will continue until 10 PM on Tuesday.
Stage 6 loadshedding will mean that 6000MW of the load is shed from the national grid. This will see South Africans without electricity for four hours at least 18 times over 4 days. Alternatively, citizens will have 10 hours out of a day without electricity.
De Ruyter explained that the possibility of a move to stage 6 loadshedding became apparent after Eskom suffered significant losses to generation capacity over the last 24 hours. This has been compounded by what Eskom called unlawful industrial action by workers.
Eskom said, "This is due to the unlawful and unprotected labour action, which has caused widespread disruption to Eskom's power plants. This has compelled Eskom to continue taking precautionary measures to conserve generation capacity and safeguard plant from damage. There is a high risk that the stage of loadshedding may have to change at any time, depending on the state of the plant."
One union that many of the striking workers belong to is the National Union Of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa).
Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola says Eskom is lying to the public by purporting that workers' salary demands are the cause of the power utility's issues.
She said, “Eskom is sacrificing workers' wages sacrificing and workers' benefits, lying to the public and claiming that workers' demands are collapsing the entity when they are not even if you look at their financials. Workers' wages have absolutely no impact on their balance sheet it's these bloated primary energy costs these core contracts, these IPP contracts that are collapsing Eskom.”
Energy Analyst Sampson Mamphweli says the strike came at the wrong time as the electricity system was under tremendous strain. He warns that stage 6 is just two stages away from a national blackout.
Mampheli says that the current leadership of Eskom is facing a difficult challenge as they work towards finding a solution for the country's electricity challenges after years of mismanagement and corruption.
He said, “We need to start looking at fast-tracking new generation capacity and bringing in additional measures that will ease the pressure on the grid.”