For the first time in 12 years, national power utility Eskom has announced that it is battling to contain the crippling power crisis that it faces, which has led to it scrapping more power off the national grid. 

On Monday, Stage 6 load shedding with blackouts occurred up to three times a day, inconveniencing businesses and households as Eskom aimed to remove 6 000MW from the national grid. 

This is all in a bid to prevent the entire system from collapsing, with President Cyril Ramaphosa admitting that it could take years to solve the power crisis. 

“The energy challenges in this country will not be resolved overnight. We have set out on a bold path of restructuring and rebuilding. Despite the setbacks of the past week, we are making progress and will steadily begin to see the fruits of these efforts,” he said in a statement. 

According to Eskom, three power plants have been heavily affected by the recent floods and bad weather. 

Kriel and Camden power plants in Mpumalanga were battling to meet demand due to flooding which affected the delivery of coal and critical maintenance. 

Medupi Power Station in Limpopo is said to be recovering and accepting coal through the conveyor belts which were damaged by the weather.  

Since former president Thabo Mbeki announced that load shedding would begin at the end of 2007, rolling blackouts have been implemented in phases over the years and several ministers have been in charge of the public enterprises’ portfolio which oversees Eskom and other state-owned utilities.  

These include ANC party members Malusi Gigaba and Lynne Brown, with Pravin Gordhan currently overseeing the portfolio.

View timeline of history of Eskom’s load shedding

Year Headline Text
2007 2007: Eskom implements loadshedding for first time Former president Thabo Mbeki admits that Eskom was right about its decreasing capacity and that the government had neglected to attend to the crisis sooner. South Africans are officially introduced to loadshedding with businesses, schools, formal and informal businesses and households hit by rolling blackouts.
2008 Loadshedding continues as reports reveal Eskom is unequipped The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) states that Eskom’s measures to handle the growing economy and electrification throughout the country is slow and underdeveloped.
2013 After a five year hiatus, loadshedding returns A lack of dry coal stockpiles at some plants is to blame while Kendal power station in Mpumalanga is undergoing serious issues with regular tripping from three generating units.
2015 99 days of loadshedding ensues Even though former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe declared there would be an end to loadshedding, the country exerienced 99 days of regular blackouts. This affected the economy, slowing economic output and ultimately growth. Molefe then unveiled a new strategy which would focus on maintenance, better management and improving the structuring of coal plants.
2016 Zuma says blackouts are over While addressing staff at Eskom’s Sunninghill headquarters, former president Jacob Zuma tells staff that blackouts would no longer be an issue as the utility’s top mangement had given him a detailed plan on how they would eliminate the need for loadshedding.
2018 Gordhan warns of electricity constraints The country is reintroduced to rolling blackouts as stage 1 and 2 loadshedding begins. Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan says Medupi and Kusile power plants are experiencing design flaws which have affected their prodcution capabilities. Gordhan tells the nation to expect more power cuts as government works on fixing the plants.
2019 Loadshedding jumps from stage 2 to stage 4 At the beginning of 2019, the power utility made a quick jump from stage 2 to stage 4 loadshedding. In March the blackouts continued lasting for a week. Gordhan made an apology to the public, blaming the power cuts on plant breakdowns. President Cyril Ramaphosa said during the budget seech that R69 billion would be allocated to the ailing state utility. A technical review task team was also assigned to Eskom by Gordhan while the Zondo Commission of Inquiry continues to investigate allegations of state capture, abuse of power and lundering of state resources at Eskom.
2019 Gordhan and Mabuza speak out about loadshedding South Africans now have to contend with stage 6 of loadshedding after a brusing week of blackouts that have affected households and businesses across the board. The shortage of electricity has been attributed to heavy rainfall and a problem at Medupi power plant. In an interview with eNCA, Eskom chairperson and acting CEO Jabu Mabuza said it was not a calamity. “I don’t think we’re failing. I think some of the reasons we find ourselves is mainly the unreliability of the plant owing to maintenance not being done. The situation we find ourselves today is to make sure it’s controlled load-shedding. Stage 6 is not a calamity. It’s controlled to protect the system from total blackout.”

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Presh JM Reporter

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