Small businesses in Johannesburg are feeling the pinch from the rolling blackouts that have hit the country as Eskom continues with load shedding.
From barbers, shoe cleaners, small kitchen restaurants and panel beaters to petrol stations, the on-again, off-again routine is coming at a cost.
On Tuesday, News24 visited various businesses in the inner and southern parts of Johannesburg CBD to get a sense of how the blackouts were affecting them.
On the corner of Enock Sontonga and Jorrisen streets, in Braamfontein, Paul*, a barber, sits in the dark with his black hoodie, visibly frustrated as customers come and go.
He cannot do anything about it because there is no electricity to cut their hair. As Paul sits at his station inside the salon, his colleagues sit by the couch while one of them plaits a client’s braids.
Paul says the shop was hit with blackouts twice on Tuesday. He describes how embarrassed he felt when a power cut hit the area while he was cutting the hair of one client. He had to finish the job using a razor.
“The electricity cuts affect my business a lot because I mostly deal with electricity. This morning, when I was cutting a client’s hair, I did not follow the load shedding schedule and the electricity went off. I was so embarrassed, and the customer was also so shocked.”
While other businesses have the advantage of using generators, Paul says for their shop it is not easy to invest in one because it is too expensive.
He adds business is already going slow because students from Wits and surrounding colleges were on holiday, and the load shedding is making things worse as the little clientele, who do come for haircuts, are met with disappointment.
Next to the barbershop is African Hot Plate, a small restaurant. Cook Petty Ndlovu says the shop is known for selling hot chips but due to there being no electricity she cannot make them for her customers.
Ndlovu also describes a serious concern for the business is freezers running out of ice which effect the stored meat. She adds financially they are also feeling the pinch and struggling to make sales and not making as much as they would on a normal day.
Generators expensive to maintain
News24 also visited a store that sells generators and found various customers enquiring about them. Others were walking towards the counters to make purchases. The generators are supposed to help businesses, but they are also a risk as there is also the unexpected expense due to their maintenance.
Lynette and Michael Carolus, who own Vicky’s Motors service station and tyre fitment centre Supa Quick, run their businesses on generators when hit with power cuts.
However, that brings no relief because when the electricity is restored, and the generators are switched off, their equipment gets damaged.
“At the filling station, we need to have a generator running all the time because of load shedding, and it is very costly to maintain it. You have to fill it up with diesel, which is very expensive,” Lynette says.
She adds pumps at the station were also damaged at one stage and cost over R10 000 to fix. Lynette says another course of concern at the station is that when there is no power, the CCTV is not working, which poses a safety risk.
“It is December, and we have these problems [load shedding]. We must pay bonuses and overtime for public holidays. If there is load shedding for six hours, it means the attendant on duty has only worked one-and-a-half hours, but you still have to pay him double for the overtime.”
On the tyre fitment side, lifts and compressors also get damaged each time the power returns, which creates additional expenses.
Michael and Lynette add while one would expect their electricity bills to not be at a peak as most of the time there is no electricity, this is not the case.
“Whether you had load shedding or not, the electricity bill is the same.”
*Paul is not his real name.