Date: 06 December 2018 By: Jo Robinson
After load shedding returned to Louis Trichardt with a vengeance this week, residents are wondering what is happening with Eskom, as well as having some difficulty figuring out the online schedules.
When Eskom’s acting chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer recently informed the portfolio committee on public enterprises in Parliament that no reason existed for load shedding in the near future if supplies and consumption were controlled, people assumed that this meant that the problem would be a temporary one. At the time, Oberholzer said that the latest incidences of load shedding were due to the hot weather, in addition to shortages of fuel and water.
Unfortunately, after the announcement of the interim results for Eskom’s 2018/19 financial year on 28 November, the power situation in South Africa is looking somewhat unhealthy. Eskom’s board chairman, Mr Jabu Mabuza, said that Eskom had seen a steady decline in generation plant performance and coal stock levels that were threatening their ability to keep the lights on.
Arrear municipal debt had climbed 25% from R13.6 billion to R17 billion in the six months between 31 March and 31 September. Mabuza said that they would continue with their clean-up campaign that has so far seen 14 executives leaving as well as criminal proceedings being instituted when relevant. Irregular supplier contracts worth R2.3 billion have been uncovered and reported to the authorities, and various investigations are underway, with additional disciplinary cases being undertaken as more acts of mismanagement and impropriety are uncovered.
Mabuza said that Eskom was in a state of severe financial difficulty and that the way it was operating was not sustainable because it was locked into a permanent loss-making position. “We are not selling enough electricity and not at prices that recover our costs throughout the value chain. We are not collecting all that we have sold. But against this, we are spending more and having to borrow more at higher costs to repay what we previously borrowed and cannot afford to repay from our declining profits,” said Mabuza.
Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe called the situation “dire”, even though Eskom said that the load shedding should ease after 16 December. This situation is not going to be fixed overnight, and so residents should be prepared for load shedding and possible price increases.
Ted Blom of the Energy Expert Coalition said in a radio interview on Tuesday that Eskom was in this untenable situation mainly because of mismanagement and corruption. He said that they could currently not access enough quality coal and the very poor variety that they were using at present tended to cause explosions as it had rocks in it, thereby damaging plants. He said that in his role as billing service advisor he had uncovered “fictitious billing” from Eskom of R230 000 for one month’s bill to a farmer - one of many such fictitious bills he was dealing with. He said that these made-up bills were only one of many of the problems with Eskom, in addition to the current low quality of their coal and the incompetent board. He did not hold out much hope for their recovery.
Load shedding is announced daily via media outlets, such as radio and television news. Residents can also look online at the Eskom Load Shedding website. The online schedule for Makhado lists the times of the various stages only if and when they are implemented. People are encouraged to find out what particular phase is in process each day, because the times on them are different, and when there is no load shedding announced for the day, the times on the schedules do not apply.
For Louis Trichardt’s load shedding schedule for the next weeks, go to http://loadshedding.eskom.co.za/LoadShedding/DownloadFile?ID=1040147&Name=Makhado
The schedule for Musina can be found by going to http://loadshedding.eskom.co.za/LoadShedding/DownloadFile?ID=1041769&Name=Musina%20NU
and for Thohoyandou, visit http://loadshedding.eskom.co.za/LoadShedding/DownloadFile?ID=1042738&Name=Thohoyandou
Jo joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in 2018 pursuing a career in journalism after many years of writing fiction and non-fiction for other sectors.