Jan 29, 2023

Total Shutdown Calls Intensify As Eskom Continues Rolling Blackouts

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On Sunday the president cancelled his trip to the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos to deal with the country’s electricity crisis.

FILE PHOTO: Residents of Pimville, Soweto demonstrate outside Eskom's Megawatt Park in Sunninghill on 25 August 2020. PICTURE: Michel Bega

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JOHANNESBURG: The high levels of rolling blackouts have taken an economic and emotional toll on citizens.

With the country plunged into darkness, South Africans are venting their frustration over Stage 6 rolling blackouts with some now threatening to take their anger to the streets in February.

This has been compounded by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa’s (Nersa) recent approval of an 18,6 % increase in the electricity tariff for 2023 and another 12,7 % increase for 2024. The high levels of rolling blackouts have taken an economic and emotional toll on citizens.

The call for a national shutdown is set to coincide with South Africa’s president, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Ms Mercia Motsamai, who once boasted a fully stocked shop in Meadowlands, Soweto has now lost almost everything in the last two years due to rolling blackouts. Her shelves are empty with her fridges damaged by surging power. She had to throw away most of her rotten stock. She says all this caused her to fall into depression.

“Mentally and emotionally it did affect me a lot because I am drinking tablets now because sometimes you think even at night you think it’s too much on your body and mind. Last week I had to go to the clinic and they told me that my high blood pressure is 190 and they gave me eight tablets in the morning and you have to drink those tablets for five days in the morning,” says Ms Motsamai.

Another shopkeeper, Mr Thami Mazibuko’s Family Butchery and General Dealer are also down and out. He says no one comes to buy from his store, as they have no electricity to cook.

“We can’t keep up with who is going to buy from you if they don’t have electricity with which to cook. You can’t imagine I have been for the past 28 years already but then I have never gone through this I have a generator and petrol is costing me a lot I lose a lot of money here,” Mr Mazibuko lamented.

Meanwhile, there are nationwide calls by members of the public, civil society organisations and political parties across various social media platforms, with many planning to either march to the Union Buildings or Eskom’s Megawatt Park offices in Johannesburg. Thousands of people have already indicated that they will join the national shutdown.

“I will join the protest because our businesses are suffering, the economy is suffering. Our leaders, our President, ministers and cabinet are all living fancy lives they are enjoying the generators of which we cannot afford the solar system. I wish the protest can take five days or more so that they can take the message seriously and help Eskom. For the march obviously I will join because my business has been affected so yes for me yes I will join and I think this will give a wake-up call,” a resident explains.

Democratic Alliance (DA) leader, Mr John Steenhuisen says his party is tired of the empty promises made by Mr Ramaphosa and has urged South Africans to join the party’s march to Luthuli House next Wednesday to protest the electricity crisis.

“Households are battling to put food on the table. Businesses are struggling to pay their staff. Stage 6 load shedding is costing South Africa between R4 and R6 billion per day. We do not accept that while the ANC is subjecting ordinary South Africans to 11 hours of load shedding per day, the residences of the President, his cabinet ministers and his deputy ministers get no load shedding at all. The very people who have broken Eskom are exempting themselves from the effects of their own failure. This is why they have no sense of urgency to fix their own mess,” says Mr Steenhuisen.

On Sunday the president cancelled his trip to the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos to deal with the country’s electricity crisis.

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