Power outages pose major risk to key Western Cape industries, says Winde

10 December 2019 - 15:48 By PHILANI NOMBEMBE
Western Cape premier Alan Winde and Eskom's Philip Wahl briefed journalists on Tuesday about plans to mitigate the effects of load-shedding. Winde called for privatisation to be introduced.
Western Cape premier Alan Winde and Eskom's Philip Wahl briefed journalists on Tuesday about plans to mitigate the effects of load-shedding. Winde called for privatisation to be introduced.
Image: Philani Nombembe

Rolling blackouts pose a serious challenge to agriculture and tourism, including the pumping of borehole water in drought-stricken towns and sewage, Western Cape premier Alan Winde said on Tuesday.

Speaking at a media briefing in response to Eskom's implementation of stage 6 load-shedding late on Monday, Winde said the provincial economy was being affected - particularly because the end-of-year period is harvest season for the agriculture sector and boom time for tourism.

With agriculture contributing 10% to the province’s GDP and constituting 17% of its labour force, Winde said the power outages, if not carefully managed, could slip the country into recession.

“So we need to ensure that we stabilise those businesses as soon as possible,” he said.

Tourists were stranded on Table Mountain late on Monday after level 6 load-shedding kicked in and a back-up generator failed.

Eskom's acting general manager for Western Cape, Philip Wahl, told the briefing at the provincial disaster management centre that stage 4 power cuts would remain in place until 11pm on Tuesday. "Then we will make a decision about the situation for tomorrow after doing a prognosis," he said. 

“In the last while, as we have moved into stage 4 of load-shedding, you can feel and hear the impact on small businesses," said Winde. "It is really, really difficult - whether you are a spaza shop trying to keep a product cold or fresh because you have no power, or you are dentist and you cannot see your clients because you need energy to be able have light. It’s across the board.

"That is why we are here today, because when something unpredictable happens, like going into stage 6, which has never happened before, we can say we are ready.”

Western Cape officials at Tuesday's briefing.
Western Cape officials at Tuesday's briefing.
Image: Philani Nombembe

Winde said central Karoo towns such as Laingsburg were severely affected because water pumps could not function without power. He said in other places sewers could not function properly.

“People must understand that, as the central Karoo felt, it affects the borehole water pumps and you can’t get water into the system. The sewerage pumps stop pumping and I saw last week, during load-shedding, extra effluent going into some of our river systems.

“These have knock-on effects, but management is understanding where these pumps are, being able to mitigate risks if we move into longer times that power is going to be off, or isolating areas that are critical.

"Businesses are really feeling it at the moment, so we need to manage it as effectively as possible.”

Winde said the provincial government was working with Eskom, local municipalities, police and disaster services to mitigate the impact of the outages.

He added that the city had to ensure that the Blitzboks' match against Japan at the Cape Town Stadium on Friday would not be affected.

Winde called for energy generation to be privatised throughout the country to ensure efficiency.

“A lot of that has got to with why are here today, but we are right here at the moment to look at mitigating risk, so we are getting into that long discussion,” he said.

"I believe we should have some decentralisation process and actually some privatisation moving in. That is why I really support bringing smaller embedded generators into the system, because it is much quicker to market. When you want to build those bigger power plants, they take years and years to build.”