South Africans without electricity as power cuts ramp up

Third consecutive day of outages rotated throughout Africa’s most industrialised nation and utility Eskom may have to implement further load-shedding

Slow-moving vehicles line the streets as traffic lights stand without power during a load-shedding power outage period in Pretoria, South Africa, on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. cut supplies for the fifth day on Thursday and warned its power generation system remains "vulnerable." Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

Blackouts in South Africa intensified to a maximum scale on Saturday after the state power utility said it lost additional generation, including electricity imports from Mozambique.

The power cuts, first implemented over the weekend to replenish water and diesel designed for surplus generation, were raised to so-called Stage 4, removing 4,000 megawatts from the system, Eskom said on Saturday. It marked a third consecutive day of outages rotated throughout Africa’s most industrialised nation, Bloomberg said.

The situation worsened on Saturday after the fall in electricity exports from Mozambique, which is cleaning up after a powerful cyclone knocked out communications and electricity pylons on Thursday.

Eskom's problems are a challenge for President Cyril Ramaphosa as they are holding back efforts to haul the economy out of a slump before a national election in May, according to Reuters.

Mr Ramaphosa's government has promised to inject 23 billion rand (Dh5.87bn) a year over the next three years to shore up Eskom's finances. It has also asked a team of experts to come up with a plan to fix Eskom's creaking coal plants.

Eskom’s operational and financial woes stem from years of mismanagement and massive cost overruns on two new coal-fired power stations that should have been completed in 2015. The utility is seen as one of the biggest risks to the country’s economy.

The loss of additional capacity included a reduction of electricity imports from neighbouring Mozambique. “The situation remains tight and volatile and we may have to implement further load-shedding should the situation deteriorate,” Eskom said. The rotational power cuts, known as load-shedding, are intended to protect the system from a total collapse.

Stage 4 power cuts, the highest degree categorised by the utility, reflects the unreliability of ageing coal stations, a reliance on imports and defects in even the newest plants built. The cuts will be increased from 12pm local time.