South Africans are grappling with regular load-shedding which can last four hours at a time, but this could be the start of something much worse.
This is the warning from Zimbabwe national Tafadzwa Choto, who said she has seen it all before in her home country.
In December 2019, the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority, Zesa Holdings, implemented electricity cuts for as long as 24 hours per day.
This was necessary because the country’s local power generation capacity was critically constrained, with demand far exceeding supply.
Zimbabwe’s Kariba South hydropower station’s reservoir was drained, its Hwange coal-fired generators kept breaking down, and it struggled to pay for imports from South Africa and Mozambique.
Zesa Holdings told stakeholders that load-shedding is now being implemented over and above the advertised schedule.
Choto told SABC News that the power cuts in Zimbabwe, just like in South Africa, also started with two-hour outages.
This has now changed, and Zimbabweans have to deal with power cuts of between 15 and 18 hours per day.
“If South Africans are not careful, they will go the Zimbabwean way,” said Choto.
Many load-shedding promises
Over the past decade, South Africans have often heard that load-shedding would be a thing of the past.
In 2007, when load-shedding was first implemented, the government said its Medupi and Kusile power stations would resolve the energy crisis.
In July 2013, Eskom CEO Brian Dames reiterated that South Africans will not experience power cuts going forward, thanks to the new power stations.
Three years later, former President Jacob Zuma said he met with Eskom management and assured South Africans that they will not experience load-shedding ever again.
Eskom CEO Brian Molefe reiterated Zuma’s claim when he told Parliament in August 2016 that load-shedding was a thing of the past.
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan also said in April 2019 that there would be no more load-shedding in South Africa.
Load-shedding to last for years
While Eskom and energy minister Gwede Mantashe claim that load-shedding will last for between 18-24 months, energy experts disagree.
Energy advisor Ted Blom said an in-depth Eskom study showed that there will be at least five years of load-shedding. He added that this the best-case scenario.
Energy expert Mike Rossouw agreed. He said it will take at least five years for Eskom’s network to be stabilised.
Rossouw explained that poor habits have become the norm at Eskom, and to change this will take time and resources.
The situation is aggravated by design faults at South Africa’s two largest power stations – Medupi and Kusile.