Eskom confirmed on Tuesday afternoon it was scaling up rolling blackouts from stage four to stage six from 4pm, citing unlawful and unprotected wage-related labour action, which it said had caused widespread disruption to the utility’s power plants.
Eskom chief executive André de Ruyter had warned at an urgent media briefing called at short notice earlier on Tuesday that South Africans must prepare for stage six load-shedding because “unlawful industrial action” had intensified overnight.
In its latest statement, Eskom said it would definitely implement stage six load-shedding from 4pm to 10pm, followed by stage four load-shedding until midnight, after which stage two would be effected until 5am on Wednesday morning.
On Wednesday, from 5am to 4pm, load-shedding will be implemented at stage four. Stage six will then be implemented at 4pm to 10pm.
Eskom said the wage strikes had compelled the company “to continue taking precautionary measures to conserve generation capacity and safeguard plants from damage. There is a high risk that the stage of load-shedding may have to change at any time, depending on the state of the plant.”
The rotational power cuts are the ongoing symptom of a looted and poorly managed and maintained public entity that has been degenerating for decades.
De Ruyter said earlier on Tuesday that Eskom had experienced unplanned losses of 14 204 megawatts, adding that the power utility had plans in place to return 3 400MW to service by 5pm but that the possibility of stage six remained high.
The electricity demand forecast for Tuesday evening is 31 990MW but Eskom has only 27 124MW capacity.
Eskom has experienced strike action at six of its power stations which has seen employees blocking roads since last week. Demonstrations have taken place at Duvha, Hendrina, Matla and Arnot power stations in Mpumalanga as well as Medupi and Matimba in Limpopo.
De Ruyter said the unlawful industrial action had intensified on Monday evening.
This included the blocking of access to the station at Camden, in Mpumalanga, when coal was dumped on the road, and four houses belonging to managers were attacked at the Lethabo power station on Monday night. The farm of a contingency worker had also been set alight.
Maintenance staff were absent from work, he said.
Eskom’s chief operating officer, Jan Oberholzer, said at the briefing earlier on Tuesday that the system was “slowly but surely recovering, so you must ask yourself what happened overnight”.
South Africa last experienced stage six load-shedding in December 2019.
In March this year, Eskom put out a warning about the possibility of stage six but managed to avert such.
This updates earlier story, with confirmation of state 6 loadshedding