South African suburbs plunged into darkness as the load shedding that Eskom promised to do away with, rudely interrupted citizen's evening routines. And so the battery powered lights and chargeable lamps were pulled out of the cupboard like so many times before as people frantically messaged friends and family to find out if they too were struck by load shedding.
But this time, Eskom blamed the power outages on the ongoing strikes and threats of sabotage by employees protesting a freeze in wages. Protesting workers are also intimidating Eskom employees, preventing them from going to work, which is causing unstable electricity supply. Workers are demanding a 15% wage increase, but Eskom is already experienced cash flow difficulties and has been unable to offer salary increases. Negotiations are set to continue at a later stage.
Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe announced over Twitter that stage 1 load shedding would commence between 17:50 and 20:00 last Friday, explaining that it was the work of the sabotage and threats of striking workers, but that all power would be revived by 20:00 that evening. Eskom subsequently got a court interdict on Thursday barring employees from going on strike. Phasiwe tweeted later that evening: "Stage 1 load shedding was lifted at 19:59 this evening. Please note that it may take a bit of time for some municipalities to fully restore power in some of the affected areas."
As Eskom warns of high risks of load shedding over the weekend, South Africans are scouring websites to access the load shedding schedules for their areas. Phasiwe announced that load shedding would start at 11:30 and would continue until 21:00 due to "multiple trips of its power generation units". He said that "the reason for this is that there have been a number of power generating units that have broken down. We are in the process of assessing what the cause of this breakdown is. But unfortunately, we have implemented stage 1 load shedding."
This comes contrary to the posts that previously stated that the striking workers were the cause of load shedding on Thursday evening.
Phasiwe continued, saying "Eskom calls on all consumers to assist by reducing their electricity consumption by switching off geysers, electric heating, pool pumps, and all non-essential appliances throughout the day." This extremely late notice of the implementation of load shedding means that businesses have not had a chance to prepare after being promised no load shedding this winter.
Citizens aren't sure which excuse to believe but the promises of Eskom are still ringing in their ears as they sit in darkness.