JOHANNESBURG, South Africa: More frequent power cuts in South Africa have affected households and businesses across the country, with state-owned power utility Eskom extending the outages, leaving some residents and businesses without power for more than 9 hours per day.
Experts said that in addition to its many concerns, including breakdowns of its aging coal-fired power plants, insufficient generation capacity and corruption, Eskom is also facing a strike by workers.
The prolonged power cuts are hitting South Africans during the Southern Hemisphere winter, when many households rely on electricity for heat, light and cooking.
Many business owners and customers have expressed anger and frustration at the power cuts, which Eskom calls "load shedding" and stressed that it will take years to fully solve.
"The big picture is that we were at least expecting heavy power cuts this winter. Eskom told us at the end of last year that there was a chronic power shortage," energy expert Hilton Trollip said, as quoted by the Associated Press.
Lamenting the impact of the blackouts on the economy, he added, "The most direct economic consequence is when businesses have to stop production because they do not have electricity, whether you have a factory, a travel agency or you have a shop."
Economists said the power cuts are costing South Africa over $40 million per day and deterring investments. Its economy, Africa's most developed, is already in recession and is suffering a 35 percent unemployment rate.
Small businesses in townships, suburbs and rural areas are among the hardest hit by the blackouts, Trollip stressed.
Nursery school teacher Buhle Ndlovu from Soweto, Johannesburg's largest township, explained that the power cuts increased her costs to run the school, stating, "We cater to about 40 children here. We need to feed healthy meals to them daily. At the rate we charge, we cannot afford to take on additional costs to buy gas in order for us to cook. Load shedding has really made it difficult for us," she said, as reported by the Associated Press.
However, some shops are benefiting from the power cuts, such as Uri's Power Center, which sells power generators, batteries and other backup systems.
"I think people should definitely look to become less reliant on Eskom. I do not believe that the power situation is going to resolve itself any time soon. We are all aware of Eskom problems and people have various options whether to invest in a generator to run their business or home," said owner Adam Zimmerman, according to the Associated Press.
At a press conference on Friday, Eskom chief executive Andre de Ruyter said the crisis was receiving serious attention and that he had personally briefed President Cyril Ramaphosa.