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By Jabulile Mbatha

Journalist


Power cuts on way but not because voting’s over

Concerns persist over power outages post-election, experts clarify it's a common issue beyond Eskom's control.


The conspiracy theories, that now the votes have been cast the lights will be turned off, just won’t go away. Many people were affected by power outages on Wednesday.

Others are still battling. However, energy expert Chris Yelland said power cuts are a common occurrence due to problems on the distribution networks.

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“These can take place randomly at any time and it’s not under Eskom’s control directly – it can also happen on municipal networks,” he said.

“There is a big difference between load shedding and power cuts on a distribution network.

“It’s completely out of the control of the minister of electricity or the IEC [Electoral Commission of South Africa].

“The only way to adequately prepare for that is to have a generator for [the thousands of] voting stations, which I don’t think is realistic. Not only the admin of getting the generator there, but making sure there’s diesel – and what will you do with them after the elections?

“We were subjected to load shedding for a long time and to have it suddenly just before the elections end, people get sceptical – and there is good reason.

“I think government, the private sector and business have worked hard in the past 18 months and its starting to bear fruit.

“The political consequences made people take this matter much more seriously but that is not manipulating the system.”

Elections analyst Michael Atkins said he was told people used their phones for light to see the ballots in some voting stations.

“I was shocked … this is against the law, as we are not allowed to take photos in the voting booth.”

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According to Yelland: “The voting did not stop because there was no power. There is a manual system in place for that reason.”

Independent political analyst Sandile Swana said it would be the responsibility of the next government to ensure the next elections did not have power shortages.

“Remember, the IEC has operated many elections without load shedding so the basic structures are not necessarily designed for load shedding. They would have had to buy 23 000 torches or whatever and you cannot guess where these outages will be.”

Eskom’s spokesperson Daphne Mokwena said 1 351 voting stations were supplied directly by Eskom in Gauteng and eight were affected by outages. Six were resourced with generators.

Swana said people could expect more planned outages, although this was not related to the end of the voting season.

He said: “It’s clear to everybody that the solutions found during elections are of a temporary nature.

“The minister of electricity has said once winter takes full effect, the chances of load shedding will increase dramatically.

“It is not correct to assume that load shedding is finished. “It will take us three years to create a base load using coal-fired power stations to close the gap. We are not there yet.”

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Electricity Eskom Load Shedding Rolling blackouts

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