The ongoing power outages being rolled out by power utility Eskom is crushing the economy and the small businesses are feeling cold.
Small businesses said they feel powerless as the power outages leave them in the dark, not knowing what to expect next.
Many are already fearing a bloodbath of job losses, losing clients and just waiting to shut down their doors permanently.
This is the sad scenario small businesses have painted during interviews with The Star on Wednesday, some small businesses said they might move from being employers to being unemployed.
Emerging businesses are still recovering from the impact of the hard lockdown due to Covid-19 and the power cuts which have been happening now are pushing them a few steps backward.
Yesterday afternoon Eskom announced that they would continue to implement stage 6 load shedding from 4pm until 10pm.
L7 Group Director Lesedi Mapheto said the impact of load shedding means the loss of production, eminent loss of clients and as the group deals with print management solutions.
“The impact we face whenever there is load shedding is the loss of production which in turn affects the clients deadline, meaning we are unable to meet deadlines. Failure to deliver on time has immeasurable reputational damage to the business that took years to build,” said Mapheto.
Mapheto pleaded with the government to intervene before it was too late.
Another small business owner Busi Danster who owns a fast food restaurant called “Lets-Eat B’ from Thokoza, Ekurhuleni said the power cuts are impacting her business which she started from scratch with no funding negatively.
“Due to load shedding, I have lost business because we hardly sell anything. I had to lay off one of my employees because I can hardly afford to buy stock, the situation is bad. First it was cooking oil, petrol now is this. We try so hard as young black South Africans to put food on the table but we are failing because of poor South African systems. I am of the view that if you were born poor, you’ll die poor because no one is willing to help us thrive in our lives or businesses. We try to create jobs but our system is pressing us down. It really breaks my heart to be a South African right now, our president does not care,” said Danster.
On Tuesday when the stage was first introduced, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan held an urgent meeting at Eskom’s head office in Johannesburg. He promised the country that stage 6 would not continue but yesterday it did.
On Wednesday morning, Eskom confirmed that its employees were returning to work amid promising talks with unions and the utility’s management.
Around 2pm on Wednesday, Eskom confirmed that stage 6 was continuing due to some of the employees not returning to work and continuing to take part in what the utility called “unlawful” action.
Eskom national spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said although some employees reported for duty, a number did not return to the power stations.
Mantshantsha said, as previously communicated, stage 6 load shedding will be implemented from 4pm until 10pm this evening. Stage 4 load shedding will then be implemented at 10pm to midnight. Load shedding will be reduced to stage 2 until 5am on Thursday morning.
He said from 5am until midnight on Thursday, load shedding will be implemented at stage 4. Stage 2 load shedding will be implemented from midnight until 5am on Friday morning.
“Eskom continues to closely monitor the system and will implement any changes as may be necessary. While some workers have started reporting for duty at the power stations, there is still a high level of absenteeism. As a result of the unlawful strike, routine maintenance work has had to be postponed,” the spokesperson said.
“This backlog will take days to weeks to clear. It is, therefore, important to note that the system will remain constrained and vulnerable to additional breakdowns while recovery activities are in progress. Due to the unlawful and unprotected labour action, which has caused widespread disruption to Eskom’s power plants, Eskom is unable to return some generators to service.”
Mantshantsha said this has compelled Eskom to continue taking precautionary measures to conserve emergency generation capacity and safeguard plants from damage.
“There remains a risk that the stage of load shedding may have to change at any time, depending on the state of the plant. We currently have 3 161MW of planned maintenance, while another 17 395MW of capacity is unavailable due to breakdowns,” he said.
Eskom paid tribute and thanked those many employees who kept going beyond the call of duty and continued to help keep the lights on during this very challenging time.
“Eskom would like to take this opportunity to thank our municipal partners who tirelessly implement the load shedding according to schedule. We also wish to thank the members of the SAPS who continue to play a key role in ensuring that disruptions of law and order were minimised at power stations during the strike,” he said.
Unions representing disgruntled employees said no agreement had been reached between workers and Eskom management.
“We want to set the record straight. We have not come to any agreement with Eskom. An offer was tabled, which members are engaging on. For the next few days, we will be consulting members to find out if they accept the proposal or not. We will meet on Friday, 1 July at the Central Bargaining Forum, where we will formally respond to it as parties,” said National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) national spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu.
Meanwhile the African Democratic Christian Party (ACDP) leader, Kenneth Meshoe called on law enforcement agencies to investigate what he called acts of sabotage at Eskom.
“We are told by the senior management that there are syndicates who are sabotaging the whole thing. Eskom is not making a profit because they are sending them pieces of coal which are mixed with iron and glass, it’s damaging the equipment,” said Meshoe.