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By Cheryl Kahla

Content Strategist

Malema’s doomsday prediction: Is SA on brink of total grid collapse?

Malema sounded the alarm about an impending total grid collapse in SA, predicting weeks-long darkness and severe disruption to normal life.

Dire warnings from Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema are creating a stir in South Africa, with many wondering how close we are to a total grid collapse.

Speaking at the EFF’s press briefing on Monday, Malema predicted complete grid failure and a nationwide plunge into darkness within the next two weeks.

Malema’s warning

These apocalyptic prophecies come amid an ongoing energy crisis in the country, with ANC politicians allegedly disregarding the impending doom.

Malema painted a bleak picture of a paralysed nation – complete with dysfunctional cellphone networks, disrupted water supply, and an imminent collapse of normal life.

Total grid collapse

“In the next two weeks, we’ve been warned, there’s going to be darkness, while almost at the point of grid collapse. It’s a reality that South Africans must know.”

Watch: Malema’s doomsday predictions:

He said the country is “heading to darkness and ANC politicans are continuing business as usual, as if we are not in a crisis.”

“We are heading for a disaster worse than what Covid was. No one will go to work. The dead will have to buried the same day because there will not be fridges to keep them.”

Malema added: “We are in a deep, deep crisis. Cellphone networks will not work. Water, even if we have it, we won’t receive it because it needs electricity. Nothing is going to function.”

Stage 10 ‘total darkness’

Malema’s prediction isn’t just about sporadic power cuts.

He speaks of a ‘stage 10’ darkness, which, he says, is just a fancy phrase for complete and utter darkness.

“They’re calling it stage 10 [but] it’s darkness. And it’s not going to be a darkness of 12 or 24 hours and it comes back.”

“No. At times it’s going to three to four days. At times it will take a week. At times it will take a month without electricity.”

On the brink of collapse?

Despite Malema’s dire predictions, Hein Vosloo, a former senior manager at Eskom’s transmission department, provides a more optimistic view.

Speaking to Times Live, Vosloo argued that a total grid collapse would only be possible if Eskom lost multiple power lines simultaneously, or if all local power stations failed at once.

He reminded the public that even in 1974, when the nation was closest to a grid collapse after 24 units went offline, the grid was stabilised within six hours.

Vosloo explained that the grid – consisting of generation, transmission, and distribution systems – is designed to handle increased load and maintain stability.

However, unforeseen outages could complicate matters, resulting in load shedding. If generation can’t meet demand, the stability of the grid is threatened.

A slow repair process

That said, an extended national outage would take some time to repair.

According to Thinus Booysen, professor in electrical and electronic engineering at Stellenbosch University, a complete grid collapse in SA “would require generation plants being brought back online in synchronisation with the 50Hz.

He said this means “they have to be ramped up and added one by one.”

“The reconnection of all the generators after a blackout would probably take two weeks or more, leaving large parts of the country and some neighbouring countries without electricity for days or more.”

SA’s ageing power stations

It is also worth noting that the average life span of a power plant is 40 years.

And most of South Africa’s power plants were built in the mid-1970s during Eskom’s massive expansion project.

Eskom began decommissioning old power plants in 2022, starting with the Komati power station near Middleburg, which will be followed by the Hendrina, Camden and the Grootvlei power stations over the next five years.

Meanwhile, the Arnot power station is expected to reach it’s end-of-life cycle between 2025 and 2029, while with the Rooiwal Power Station’s expiry date set for 2025, and Kriel sometime between 2024 and 2028.

A stark reminder

For perspective, one of the largest grid collapses in recent history occurred in India in 2012, when a whopping shortage of 32 000 MW was recorded.

The power outage affected more than 400 million people, causing disruption to train operations and health services, and serves as a stark reminder of what could happen should a significant power outage occur.

All major power plants, including hydropower stations, were shut down in eight states – Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and the Union Territory of Chandigarh.

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