Newcastle experiences load-shedding for the first time amid Eskom court battle

11 December 2019 - 13:33 By NIVASHNI NAIR
The Newcastle town hall. Residents experienced load-shedding for the first time in the town's history on Monday.
The Newcastle town hall. Residents experienced load-shedding for the first time in the town's history on Monday.
Image: Wikimedia/Viresh Mahabeer

Newcastle residents are no longer having candlelit dinner by choice.

Not one of the 55,000 inhabitants of Newcastle West in the northern KwaZulu-Natal town had ever experienced load-shedding until the lights went off without warning on Monday.

In the past the Newcastle municipality, a licensed distributor of electricity, introduced its own electricity saving measures for the prevention of scheduled blackouts for residents and businesses.

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During periods of national load-shedding, the town cut back on a certain amount of electricity per day, depending on the national grid requirements.

When load-shedding hit, the town implemented geyser switches. Geyser-controlling regulators are installed in every home and these were switched off during peak times.

However this all changed on Monday.

โ€œThe residents and businesses were shocked to be load-shed on Monday for the first time. Eskom decided to load shed our industrial area at 10am on Monday with no warning at all,โ€ said Johan Pieters of the Newcastle Growth Coalition.

When the lights went out, Newcastle residents scrambled to find a load-shedding schedule.

Desperate to know when the power would go off again, they took to the municipality's social media pages to demand that a schedule be issued.

Why isn't there a schedule for load shedding so we can plan our days accordingly. It's the least you can do๐Ÿ™…๐Ÿ˜’

Posted by Sine Kunene on Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The coalition was forced to write to the municipality.

โ€œThe Newcastle Growth Coalition acknowledges that the current load-shedding being experienced in Newcastle is because of Eskom and not due to the current legal battle between Newcastle Municipality and Eskom.

โ€œWe hereby request the municipality to assist us with a schedule which will allow Newcastle to better plan and prepare, it would be appreciated if we could please be advised of the times as well as of the areas that will be affected,โ€ it said in the letter.

A schedule was eventually released late on Tuesday evening.

Newcastle faces a court battle over its failure to pay Eskom.

An application to interdict Eskom from implementing daily power blackouts was expected to be heard in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Wednesday.

It is claimed that the Newcastle municipality has consistently defaulted on payments towards its R2bn Eskom debt, from 2017.

In a notice, Eskom had stated that residences and businesses would be disconnected from 6am until noon and again from 3pm to 8.30pm each day from September 30 to October 6.

From October 7, electricity was scheduled be disconnected from 6am to 8pm on weekdays, until the municipality paid all its outstanding debt.

The municipality was granted an interim interdict preventing the disconnections pending the court hearing.

Municipal spokesperson Dumisani Thabethe could not be reached for comment.