Four days stuck without power — load-shedding’s unspoken devastation

Residents across Gauteng have been experiencing extended outages caused by damaged infrastructure and overloads following failure to restore power after load-shedding.

Many have taken to Twitter to voice their frustration over these prolonged outages, apparently caused by network overloads and damaged equipment when power is restored after load-shedding.

The areas affected include Gauteng’s major metros: Johannesburg, Tshwane, and Ekurhuleni.

Eskom and CityPower have recommended that customers turn off electrical equipment during load-shedding as it “helps in easing overload”, power surges, and damage to appliances when power is restored.

On Monday, Eskom acknowledged that it was experiencing a high number of faults across Gauteng.

It said that technicians are working on restoring supply to the affected areas and apologised for the inconvenience.

Eskom implemented Stage 2 load-shedding on Friday, 5 November, which it quickly upgraded to Stage 4 that lasted until 05:00 on Saturday. Stage 2 load-shedding would then continue for the rest of the weekend.

However, on Sunday, the power utility announced that Stage 2 load-shedding would continue throughout the week until 05:00 on Saturday, 13 November.

This plan did not last either as it was upgraded to Stage 4 at 13:00 on Monday, 8 November. Eskom has said Stage 4 load-shedding would last until 05:00 on Friday.

Currently, load-shedding is implemented in two and a half hour slots, and it is when these scheduled power cuts end that further problems tend to occur.

According to a statement from Eskom, prolonged outages after scheduled load-shedding are caused by several factors.

Primarily caused by the startup load on a transformer exceeding the network’s capacity (overloading), other problems such as damaged transformers and distributors tripping can also cause prolonged outages.

Illegal connections contribute to overloading in certain areas, and cable theft conducted during load-shedding causes also causes extended power outages.

In October, one case saw a pylon in Lenasia collapse, which CityPower blamed on cable theft for weakening the structure.

“We have requested a criminal investigation to be launched as we believe the pylon was weakened by vandalism by criminals that this affects power supply,” said CityPower spokesperson Isaac Mangena.

Several of these extended outages go unreported for some time as residents believe load-shedding may have just been extended.

“Block 1 is still on load-shedding. Have you extended it for another two and half hours?” one Twitter user asked CityPower.

As load-shedding is only expected to get worse in the coming months, CityPower advises that customers should log a call via its mobile app if power fails to restore following a scheduled power cut.

Load-shedding is already disastrous for South Africa’s economy. With more South Africans working from home due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Eskom’s scheduled blackouts have become an even more significant problem for productivity.

Additionally, international companies hiring remote workers in South Africa often have strict performance targets, which load-shedding makes challenging to meet.

It is impossible to make your targets when the power does not come back on after load-shedding due to an overload. Even if you invest in a generator, extended outages usually result in network connectivity problems.

No doubt this will contribute to the jobs lost as a result of load-shedding.

PwC senior economist Christie Viljoen said that rotational power cuts have resulted in the loss of more than a million jobs in South Africa over the past three years.

Now read: Disaster strikes at Eskom

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Four days stuck without power — load-shedding’s unspoken devastation