Load shedding was officially confirmed shortly before 6pm yesterday, as striking workers pulled the plug on national electricity utility Eskom.
The confirmation came in the form of a tweet from Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe, who said there would be stage one load shedding last night.
In a statement shortly thereafter, he said load shedding would take place between 5.45pm and 8pm.
This came just hours after Eskom admitted South Africa faced a real risk of load shedding, and asked South Africans to reduce their electricity consumption by switching off geysers, pool pumps, heaters and non-essential appliances within the peak hours of 5pm and 8pm.
The power utility confirmed earlier yesterday that at least four power stations were severely “constrained”. The entity laid the blame at the door of striking workers, who they accused of sabotage and intimidation.
According to Eskom, the power stations which were most at risk were Hendrina, Camden, Kendal, and Arnot.
Deputy Eskom spokesperson Dikatso Mothae also confirmed they had filed court papers for an urgent application to force workers to return to work today.
Electricity at the power utility’s Megawatt Park head office was also temporarily cut yesterday, supposedly by striking workers as the strike intensified.
According to Eskom, there had been several incidents of road blockades, attacks on staff, and wilful damage of electricity infrastructure yesterday.
“All road coal deliveries have been stopped for security reasons. The safety of all our employees is of paramount importance to us during this time,” it said.
Pickets were staged across the country against the 0% salary increase the cash-strapped state-owned entity had decided on.
Numsa said on Twitter yesterday: “We have given Eskom seven days to respond to our demands. Failure to do so will result in a national shutdown.”
Among the union’s demands was the scrapping of the independent power producers project, which it partially blamed for the financial crisis at Eskom.
“Eskom is in financial trouble because of looting. It has wasted billions because of corruption. It is unfair to blame workers,” it said.
During a meeting with the unions, public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan committed to ensuring the 0% wage increase would be off the table.