Businesses take a beating from blackouts

Main Road in Woodstock during load shedding.

Businesses, organisations and households are reeling from continued load shedding for the past few weeks, with no end in sight.

This week, Eskom announced that load shedding would continue with varying stages.

Local businesses are feeling the pinch, with some opting to buy generators and other devices to help during power cuts, while others are choosing to work around it – working longer hours to make up for the lost income.

Gereldine Muzende, owner of Serenity Beauty Parlour in Claremont, said the past few weeks had been costly for her business as they could not operate without power.

Ms Muzende said they worked mainly on a walk-in basis, and most clients were not willing to wait two-to-three hours for the power to come back on.

“It’s so sad to see clients walking away and thinking of all the money we are losing. Our rent still needs to be paid and my staff, so we have had to work later or come in earlier to make up that money.”

It was at times hard to keep up with the changes on the load-shedding schedule, she said.

“We have had customers in the middle of their service and the power would go out, which is obviously frustrating for the clients.”

Najmudin Allie, the manager of the Karbros Take Away in Observatory, said the costs of running their generator was, at times, more than what they made from food sales.

“We spend about R500 to run the generator for two-to-three hours. Sometimes we have load shedding two-to-three times a day, which outweighs the sales.”

They also had fewer customers during load shedding as most businesses in the area were closed then, Ms Allie said.

Youssef Kanouni, who owns a Woodstock clothing store, said that if load shedding was scheduled after 4pm, he sent his staff home because the area became dark quickly in winter.

“Load shedding has become a part of our lives, and this is sad. Our government is failing us, and it seems as if we have just become ‘used to’ load shedding.”

He said he saw no point in getting a generator as other businesses in the area did not have one and foot traffic was low during power cuts.

Helen Keller Society operations manager Estelle Smith said they had bought a generator a few years back and it had eased the impact of load shedding on the Pinelands retirement home, with only the cost of diesel to cover during this time.

Rape Crisis digital officer Sino Mdujeni said their core operations, including counselling, counselling help lines and workshops, were mostly unaffected by load shedding, but their cables had recently been stolen during load shedding.

“We have maintained the technological agility that we embraced during lockdown, and that has been a great help. We are putting our best foot forward under the circumstances,” he said

Kenilworth Centre was plunged into darkness for about 20 minutes last Friday after the generator failed to kick in during load shedding.

Salmaan Mohamed, who works at his family-owned take-away, Cabana Cabin, said their till, card machine and electronic menu display did not work during the blackout.

“We had to buy surge protectors for our fridges and fryers. When the power is out, then we cannot fry samoosas or make salomies or even make fries. At Kenilworth Centre, we are mostly fine, as the centre has a generator. Today (Friday) was an exception, as it took longer than usual for the generator to kick in,” Mr Mohamed said.

In response to an emailed enquiry about the incident, Kenilworth Centre management said only that “Kenilworth Centre remains fully operational during load shedding”.

Load shedding has been exacerbated by a week-long strike that was characterised by threats against Eskom employees who did not want to down tools.

Eskom spokesman Sikhona Mantshantsha said in a statement on Sunday July 3 that load shedding would persist, at various stages, over the next few weeks while the power utility recovered electricity generation levels seen before the strike.

Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said the City was determined to end its reliance on Eskom-generated power as soon as possible,

“We simply must do more to protect our residents from the dire failure to provide even the most basic services at a national level – be it energy, policing, public transport, bulk water, you name it.

“We have to make sure that this is the last straw, by pushing as fast as we can to devolve the generation of electricity and other critical services from a national government that is clearly collapsing.”