South Africa’s national energy grid is facing potential Stage 8 load shedding, prompting calls for mass mobilisation. According to IOL, energy experts have warned that rolling blackouts and political uncertainty could lead to minimal economic growth. In addition, frustration and anger among the population are targeted explicitly at President Cyril Ramaphosa and his government. This public reaction has led to concerns that mobilisation, strikes, and national shutdowns may occur, as witnessed in the run-up to the 2024 elections.
There is a growing depression among many South Africans, with the economy’s productive capacity particularly hard hit. With improvements to the power grid, businesses and individuals are likely to invest domestically. However, despite Eskom adding a limited new generation to the grid, there is yet to be a clear plan to end load shedding. Monique le Roux, a senior energy researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, has called for the government to take drastic action.
Also read: National Shutdown Protests Turn Violent: Over 500 Arrested for Public Violence and Intimidation
Eskom has warned that Stage 6 will continue due to a shortage of generation capacity. In addition, with Koeberg Unit 1 off-line for a 20-year life extension project, the country’s only nuclear power station is not providing any power. Despite this, the Presidency has stated that work is underway to reduce the severity of load shedding and end it altogether. However, Eskom’s inability to provide reliable power remains a significant concern.
Energy expert Lungile Mashele has reported that Stage 8 load shedding has already happened, but Eskom denies this. However, Joshua Budlender, a South African Economics PhD candidate, warns that Stage 8 is likely coming and could be unlike anything seen before. With Eskom using 19 of its 20 diesel OCGT and the country being close to Stage 7 or Stage 8 load shedding, the availability of budget to procure additional diesel during the rest of Eskom’s financial year could be at risk.
There is growing frustration among citizens due to the current situation, and there is no clear indication that load shedding will improve in the medium or long term. Trust Matsilele, a CPUT media studies lecturer and analyst, has added that the current situation is a culmination of neglect in addressing structural and infrastructure issues that trace back to the Mbeki administration.