Eskom’s implementation of stage 6 loadshedding has had severe repercussions for the entire population of South Africa, particularly small businesses which have been disproportionately affected. Furthermore, the economic devastation resulting from this situation has the potential to significantly impact the mental well-being of individuals, potentially leading to severe psychological distress.

By Philiswa Mbanjwa

Eskom’s bombshell on Monday that the nation’s never-ending power cuts would kick it up a notch to the paralysing stage 6 load shedding starting at 05h00 on Tuesday until who knows when has been a real kick in the teeth for the past 24 hours.

The power utility issued an urgent statement, stating that two units at the Lethabo and Matla power stations need to be shut down for urgent repairs. Eskom also mentioned that it would provide an update if any significant changes occurred.

According to experts cited by IOL, the recent power outages experienced in a country already facing economic difficulties are anticipated to have a devastating impact on an economy that is already struggling.

According to the IOL report, the jaw-dropping amount of R30 billion and still climbing spent on diesel this year alone gives a glimpse of an organisation desperately trying to keep the lights on.

This comes on the heels of the National Treasury revealing a budget deficit of R143.8 billion for July, the largest since 2004, and far exceeding the R115.5 billion economists predicted.

The consequences have been far more difficult to bear for ordinary citizens and small businesses.  Many small businesses in the townships rely solely on electricity to stay open.  Almost none of them have backup plans when power goes off.

The ramping up of the stages has naturally caused alarm among business owners, who are now faced with the difficult task of maintaining their day-to-day activities without electricity.

The Telegram spoke to business owners in Soweto who expressed their deep concerns regarding the crippling effect these outages have had on their livelihoods.

The owners of Simplicious Food Factory, a fast-food outlet located just minutes away from Maponya Mall, revealed that they had no choice but to invest in a generator to deal with the frequent power outages and meet their customers’ demands.

Matshidiso Mohalali, one of the owners, explained their predicament: “If we wait for electricity to return, people would have already had breakfast, so we would lose out. Our shop is close to the mall and caters for employees there, making mornings and lunchtime our busiest hours. We also struggle to keep up with the added costs of fuel to run generators, and as a result, we had to increase our menu prices.”

Manqoba Maphanga’s bakery, a nearby establishment, is also being affected by power outages. Maphanga expressed his frustration at not being able to purchase a generator, resulting in the closure of his business during load shedding.

“If we have to endure this much longer, jobs will be lost because I have to cut my staff members, as they cannot work during load-shedding hours, and I also have to reduce their working hours, resulting in smaller pay cheques. Without a generator, the shop cannot function at all,” said Maphanga

Mental Distress

According to a report by the Financial Mail, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) conducted an online survey in January, revealing that the persistent power cuts have detrimental effects on mental well-being.

“Anxiety, stress, strained family relationships and feelings of helplessness were some of the issues the just over 1,800 respondents said they were struggling with.  Three-quarters of participants who were employed said being expected to produce the same amount of work despite having sporadic power supply caused stress — and many people fear that continued load-shedding will lead to job losses and derail attempts to turn around the country’s struggling economy.

“Apart from the economic impact, which is felt by small businesses, big manufacturing industries and agriculture alike, South Africans are struggling to cope with the day-to-day effects of the power crisis. Four in 10 people reported feeling depressed because of load-shedding and six in 10 struggled with anxiety and panic because of power cuts,” states the report.

Nightmare on the roads

Forget about the chaos that comes hand in hand with never-ending traffic jams, it is also capable of sending drivers straight into the poorhouse.

According to an online news publication, Bizcommunity, if you get into a car accident at an intersection where the traffic lights aren’t working due to load shedding, you might be held responsible even if it was your turn to go. This might impact the amount of money you can receive if you file a claim for personal injury with the Road Accident Fund (RAF).

The publication attributes this to Kirstie Haslam, a partner at DSC Attorneys, who says that motorists have certain responsibilities when traffic lights aren’t working.

“Motorists must proceed as if they’re at a three or four-way stop and the first car to arrive at the stop sign gets the right of way.

“All motorists should move forward in the order they arrive. If you approach a four-way stop and there’s one car at each stop street, you must wait for every car to go before you do. If there are queues at the stop, vehicles still move by the rule – first come, first proceed,” she is quoted as saying.

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