Nationwide Eskom strike – communities left in the dark
The N2 leading into Ermelo, near the Camden Power Station, was barricaded on Thursday, 14 June

Nationwide Eskom strike. Threats of a national shutdown of electricity supply by members from NUMSA (National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa) and NUM (National Union of Mineworkers) were doing the rounds on Wednesday, 13 June 2018 and here are the reasons behind it.

According to an article published in the Witbank News, NUM planned an electricity shutdown to protest against 0% salary increases for Eskom employees during the Eskom Strike. Furthermore, the article warned South Africans that they may face a day or two without electricity because of the strike.

In January 2018, Eskom appointed a new set of directors to help with their leadership crisis. President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed the former Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan as the Public Enterprises Minister during February to be in charge of enterprises such as Eskom. During last week, Eskom announced a 0% wage increase and roughly 10 000 people will lose their jobs. In 2003, Eskom employed 32 000 and to date, this figure increased to 47 600.

The electricity production to date is roughly the same as in 2003 and with even more employees, production remains the same whilst the wage bill increased significantly. NUM released a statement to call for the national shutdown of electricity, which was set to occur on national -, regional – and branch levels. NUMSA and NUM held a joint briefing on Wednesday, 13 June 2018. Questions like: “Why should workers pay for management’s mistakes” were asked and statements were made such as “Eskom managers drove the company to the brink of financial ruin through rampant looting, corruption and mismanagement”.

Eskom in return released various statements to inform the nation that they have measures in place and contingency plans against the planned industrial action. Furthermore, they ensured South Africa that the lights will stay on should the strike continue. On Thursday, 14 June, the N2 outside Ermelo (at Camden Power Station) was also closed off for short periods of time and on Thursday evening, people were informed that Eskom initiated load shedding, of which Amsterdam was already affected from 17:41 until 20:00.

The Excelsior News received a statement from Eskom on Friday, 15 June, stating the following: Power supply constrained due to the effects of industrial action Thursday, 14 June 2018: The generation and distribution of electricity across Eskom’s network is constrained today due to the acts of sabotage and intimidation that characterise the current industrial action by members of the trade unions.

There have been several incidents of road blockades, attacks on staff, and wilful damage of electricity infrastructure. As a result, all road coal deliveries have been stopped for security reasons. The safety of all our employees is of paramount importance to us during this time. The power stations that are worstaffected by the industrial action are Hendrina, Camden, Kendal, and Arnot. We appreciate and thank our employees who continue to work hard to keep the lights on.

Eskom will continue to provide regular updates about the state of the power system through various media platforms. On Friday, 15 June, Eskom released another press release stating the following: Load shedding has commenced Eskom commenced with Stage 1 load shedding at 11:29am today (15 June 2018). We anticipate that this will continue until 9pm tonight. This is due to the impact of the current illegal protest action by some Eskom employees at various sites over wage increases. Eskom is working with all the relevant stakeholders to keep its plants operating optimally however there is a high risk of load shedding over the weekend.

Eskom calls on all consumers to assist by reducing their electricity consumption by switching off geysers, electric heating, pool pumps, and all nonessential appliances throughout the day because of the Eskom strike. Customers are cautioned to treat all electrical connections as live during this period. We would like to thank our workers who have continued working under very difficult circumstances and all South Africans who have heeded the call to action to use electricity sparingly.

Eskom is load shedding according to the published load shedding schedules, which are available on the Eskom website (loadshedding. eskom.co.za) or at local municipalities if you are a municipal customer. Eskom customers can also contact our customer call centre on 0860 037 566 (08600 ESKOM). As people have mixed emotions about the Eskom strike, all is in agreement that no one wants to struggle without electricity and that the grievances need to be dealt with urgently. Mkhondo also faced load shedding over the past weekend.

On Friday, 15 June, it was from 17:00 until 19:00 and on Saturday, 16 June it was from 17:00 until 19:15. On Monday, 18 June, Eskom released the following information: Eskom’s prognosis is that the power system will take up to approximately ten days to recover from the effects of the recent industrial action, once all staff members return to work on Monday.

The estimated ten-day prognosis for full restoration is due to the effects of the industrial action which interrupted continuous processes at the power plants. These processes have to now be cleared out and restarted which will take additional time.

These include:

  • Coal management and transportation. For example the inability to transport coal from our coal stock yards to our coal bunkers due to the absence of operating staff. In addition the already low coal stockpiles at some stations were exacerbated by road closures as coal delivery had to be suspended.
  • Significant increase in plant outages and a bottleneck in routine maintenance due to the lack of resources to optimally operate the plant; such as ash clearing and mechanical failures that occurred during the period. For example smaller stations can only return units more or less every 24 hours due to demineralised water limitations and some stations that are operating at high output have to manage their ash levels to achieve optimal production. These stations are expected to only return to normality by Thursday.
  • In addition, Eskom is currently managing diesel levels at our peaking plants at 50% to ensure that sufficient diesel generation is available for emergencies.