Lengthy load shedding becoming a norm

Table View residents say that they are experiencing lengthy load shedding schedules from Eskom and accuse the power supplier of having old infrastructure.

Several parts of Table View were left without electricity for longer than the planned load shedding hours at the weekend.

On Sunday and Monday, the load shedding schedule for most parts of Milnerton, Table View and Blaauwberg was from 6pm to 8.30pm. The power went off as planned, but several areas in Table View reported that their electricity only came back on around 11pm and some at midnight.

This has angered many residents, with some threatening to withhold their rates and taxes because of the state’s failure to provide a reliable public service.

Lisel Ross, of Table View, said it was hard to cope with the situation as a single mother with two children.

“For the past two nights, I have been worried at home, just praying that we will be safe,” she said. “It’s difficult at times like these because I can’t even do the basics like cook for my children. I now have to do that a little earlier, before the proposed schedule during the day when the heat is killing us. Something has to be done about this. We can’t keep living like this.”

On Sunday night, the power went off at 6pm. In other places, it returned at 8.20pm, but only for a few moments before it went off again. Ward 113 councillor Joy Solomon, who lives in one of the affected areas, said she suspected the neighbourhood’s old substations were to blame.

“Grey Avenue, Study Street and Arum Road [substations] are the usual problems. They are overloaded and old. It would be interesting to find out exactly how old they are and when they were built, and, to my knowledge, no upgrades or replacements have been done. Now is the time.”

In a voice note to residents on Sunday, the councillor said Eskom had told her technicians would take four to six hours to fix the problem. The power had only returned at midnight, she said.

The power went off as planned again on Monday at 6pm, but the same pattern as Sunday soon followed. The power came back on at 8.30pm this time, went off five minutes later and then returned before 11pm.

Mark van den Heever said he did not want to keep paying rates and taxes for basic state services he wasn’t getting.

“What do we pay these high rates for in this area if we’re only going to get half a day’s worth of electricity? I can’t be the only one who is thinking this way. This on and off is also potentially dangerous for our homes that we pay so much to maintain. I have friends whose appliances go up in smoke because of the unreliable power that our government is providing. Enough is enough now.”

City of Cape Town spokeswoman Jean-Marie de Waal Pressly said Eskom, and not the municipality, supplied those parts of Table View hit by the extended blackouts.

“In general, however, outages that carry on for longer are usually due to nuisance tripping where the load-shedding trips the power infrastructure and then causes delayed outages. This is one of the bad things about load-shedding is all the technical issues it causes,” she said.

The City has had its own issues in terms of responding to electricity service requests. Last week, it said there would be delays in electricity service requests due to a number of staff testing positive for Covid-19. According to mayoral committee member for energy and climate change, Phindile Maxiti, the electricity call centre and electricity depots have only “skeleton staff”.

“This is unfortunately impacting on our service delivery and turnaround times,” he said. “Affected electricity depot services will include single and multiple street light outages, cable faults and low voltage maintenance.”

Eskom said it had noted that parts of Table View experienced prolonged interruption in their electricity supply and that it was due to “cold-load restoration”.

Eskom’s spokesman Kyle Cookson said: “Cold load takes place when a distribution circuit is re-energised following an extended outage, where the current is high enough to cause a rapid overcurrent (load surge) that may cause the electricity supply to trip.”

Mr Cookson said customers should wait at least 30 minutes after the power was restored before switching on appliances to avoid tripping. Eskom did not respond to questions about where the issues originated or which specific areas were affected.

To report electricity that hasn’t been restored, residents can contact Eskom at 086 003 7566 or email customerservices@eskom.co.za.