There has not been anything more topical in South Africa in the last seven days, than Eskom’s troubles. Yes, the horrific story of the 21 teenagers who died at a drinking hole in East London has also gripped the nation. Yet, it is Eskom’s incompetence which directly affects most if not all South Africans, that is regrettably the hot topic.
The impact of the load shedding bleeds Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) who lack the resources to keep the business running when the lights are out. In this piece Spot-On speaks to entrepreneurs whose businesses we profiled in the past, to get an idea of how bad Eskom’s blackouts affect their trades.
“Yes, the load shedding affects my business badly because I use a two-plate stove with an oven which uses electricity, meaning for the past three days I lost six orders which amounts to R430,” Pizza maker Themba Limekhaya tells Spot-On. “Because the electricity went off while preparing pizza to get into oven, I have to cancel the orders.”
Limekhaya is an entrepreneur who runs run his pizza business from a shack in Orange Farm. “I don’t have an off-grid oven because I’m still trying to make ends meet but those who use off-grid ovens survive in this load shedding. The sooner someone comes to rescue me or help out by off-grid oven whether gas or wood, it will be great to make orders regardless of load shedding.”
Baker Keke Kgolane says downloading apps that alert her of when the power will go, has been a tad helpful. “I have downloaded an app that tells me about the off&on time of load shedding, so when it comes back I make sure I bake more even if I don’t have an order that day but I know tomorrow someone will need a cake then I’m ready.”
“When you’re busy baking it goes off then you have to throw that away and it also puts more strain on me physically because I have to wake up at 11pm at night when it comes back so I can finish before morning. So I’m sleeping for four hours since it started because during the day I’m at work and when I knock off there is no electricity,” concludes Kgolane.
For tattoo artist Melusi Sithole who is in Tembisa, the blackouts have also had an adverse effect on his business, Ink Patio. “I depend highly on electricity, especially lighting because tattooing is all about accuracy. Without electricity, I can’t work because the tattoo equipment also works with electricity. We don’t have back up power and generators are very expensive and noisy sometimes to clients. The only solution to our problem are the UPS power supply but they are even more expensive,” says Sithole.
He adds that “The greatest challenge now is, it’s month end and bills need to be paid. It’s the busiest time of the month for the business but we cannot even take bookings because our electricity can go out at any time.”
Speaking to IOL Black Business Council (BBC) said that load shedding is the biggest risk for the achievement of the economic reconstruction and recovery plan. “The continuous rolling blackouts and load shedding by André Marinus de Ruyter, including moving the country to stage six, giving a plethora of excuses, is unacceptable for a struggling economy trying to recover from the impact of Covid-19,” BBC CEO Kganki Matabane said.
“Until and unless our government, as shareholders, takes the drastic steps to remove the incompetent management and inadequate Board of Eskom, who have time to come with laughable excuses such as continuously blaming State Capture instead of solving the electricity generation challenges, the country must forget about any prospect of economic recovery,” said the CEO.
Managing Director at the Kathorus Development Company (KDC) Bongani Mabuza echoes the sentiment of other entrepreneurs struggling with power cuts. “We are very much affected and the extra measures we take to get through it cost us money from our very minimal profits. This leads us to cutting working hours for our people thus affecting their income.”
Founder and owner of Tobs Wraps, Thobile Sibeko says she’s had to invest in a gas cylinder because of the paucity of electricity, which has an effect on her staff’s salary. “I’ve had to invest on gas equipment, meaning that we have to use the profit to constantly buy gas equipment to work more effectively, it’s a real nightmare. My staff works really hard and it’s hurtful to not be able to pay them enough.”
“Load shedding has a very negative effect of my business, we have reduced our working hours as it gets dark too quickly and we can’t rely on sunlight since it’s winter,” says Sibeko.
Barber Mohlala Khotso has made somewhat of a contingency plan for when the power goes out. “I do have a backup, I’m using cordless hair clippers so all I have to do is make sure that are fully charged at least I can cut about six clients or so the only challenge I have is light when it gets dark I can’t work. I’m forced to close the shop; I’m working on getting strong solar panels since it’s a once off cost thing unlike a generator.” Mohlala does admit that there are less customers walking, seemingly discouraged by the load shedding.
Reitumetse Molapo, who is popularly known as Reitumetse Wa Dimmata because of the tapestry work she does in the community, says she’s currently behind with her orders because of the load shedding. “It has affected me quite bad, I’m behind with some orders and no I don’t have any backup, when load shedding happens, my business is on standstill,” says the businesswoman.