Nelson Mandela Bay business expresses concern over effects of ongoing power crunch.
Organised business in Nelson Mandela Bay is gravely concerned about how expected rolling blackouts will affect the Eastern Cape economy for the next three years.
On Thursday, Eskom chief executive Tshediso Matona confirmed the business community’s worst fears that Eskom would not be able to guarantee reliable supply of electricity to South Africa – for at least the next three years.
Matona said South Africa would have to learn to live with recurrent electricity cuts because Eskom had to build new capacity while playing catch-up with the maintenance of its old‚ neglected power stations.
He said it was no longer a question of whether there would be load shedding, but rather how people would deal with it.
Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber chief executive Kevin Hustler said Eskom’s problems could severely impact the region’s economy.
“We find ourselves in a very precarious position that threatens business and the economy, along with every household in the country,” Hustler said.
“The quality and reliability of power and electricity infrastructure is a major cause of instability for business in Nelson Mandela Bay.
“The current situation at Eskom adds considerably to the pressure under which business already finds itself. This increases the challenge of doing business in our city to uncompetitive and nearly unsustainable levels.”
He said businesses were now faced with having to make crippling compromises as a result of the poor decisions, financial mismanagement and a shocking lack of planning and maintenance on the part of the parastatal.
“We cannot yet, I believe, fathom the enormity of the damage that has been done – and will yet be done – to South Africa as a player on the global economic stage. This is a high risk situation for our country, and everything must be done to ensure sustainability and to protect jobs in sectors such as manufacturing and retail,” Hustler said.
He urged Eskom to do everything possible to ensure a minimal impact on business during the inevitable upcoming periods of load shedding.
Meanwhile, some big businesses in the Bay have already felt the impact of Eskom’s unreliable supply of electricity on their sustainability and international competitiveness.
“Of major concern to Continental Tyre SA, along with the cost of supply of electricity, is the quality of supply. Frequent power dips interrupt production and cause damage to equipment and other production losses,” said Continental Tyre SA communications manager Jiminy-Ann Bosman.
General Motors Africa communications manager Denise van Huyssteen said the company was concerned particularly with issues around the reliability and quality of supply.
“This directly affects our competitiveness versus other operations around the world,” Van Huyssteen said.
Autocast SA executive director David Mertens said the electricity interruptions and current situation with Eskom meant that companies were in trouble.
“It is important that our government’s energy business is efficiently run and high costs through inefficiencies are avoided. Our energy supply is being run inefficiently and as such it will be difficult for the government to keep the industry supplied in a competitive fashion,” Mertens said.
Eskom is waiting for R20-billion that Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene promised in October as part of its recapitalisation. Eskom had requested a “capital injection of at least R50-billion”.
Eskom has indicated it will apply to Nersa for additional tariff increases to raise enough revenue to cover its costs. – Additional reporting by Inet
– Cindy Preller