Load shedding hurts most vulnerable, says NPO

Mymoena Scholtz, founder of Where Rainbows Meet in Vrygrond says load shedding is hampering the community work done by her organisation.

Load-shedding doesn’t just threaten businesses and damage appliances and electronic devices, it’s also hurting society’s most vulnerable, says Mymoena Scholtz, who runs a non-profit in Vrygrond.

The founder of Where Rainbows Meet says she is “angry and frustrated” because their community work depends on electricity.

“Sitting for hours during the day without electricity has a negative impact on our appliances. The microwave broke and there is one laptop down due to load-shedding.”

The organisation feeds the hungry daily, but food needs to be frozen and a freezer needs electricity.

Many in the community also rely on the organisation for access to computers and online training, but load shedding has been playing havoc with the organinsation’s computers.

“We were forced to upgrade the computers because it became so problematic. It affected the development of unemployed students that are motivated to improve their knowledge and skills. This made them very frustrated being interrupted like this,” Ms Scholtz said.

And the organisation’s security system has also not been working properly because of the blackouts.

“Our surveillance camera in our offices blew. The battery from our alarm doesn’t get a full charge, and this keeps us awake at night not knowing if our premises are safe.” Ms Scholtz said, adding that it hadn’t taken long for criminals to take advantage of the situation.

“Our water tank was stolen when our lights were out,” she said, adding: “It’s our poor people paying even sometimes with their lives, bringing tins of coals into their homes for warmth with increasing possibility of fires.

“It is really sad as we witness our country go backwards and our problems just increase in our communities. With the high crime in these areas, we feel that this is a great injustice to all of us as we see how this government fails the people of South Africa.”

With the power cuts raising the prospect of increased criminal activity, the Wynberg East Neighbourhood Watch has increased patrols, according to the watch’s chairwoman Salwa Beukes.

“Some of our patrols are six hours long, bearing in mind that many of our patrollers have day jobs,” said Ms Beukes.

Alarms, cameras and motorised gates went on the blink during load shedding, she said. “This of course leaves many of us feeling uneasy as we become sitting ducks for criminal activity. As patrollers, we are aware of the many unknown faces strolling around on our streets looking for opportunity.”

Lionel Smith, a musician from Parkwood, said load shedding had dealt a blow to his practice sessions.

“I have to change my practice schedule every day, because of load-shedding. A person is not 100% sure if you can even do a gig. This country is becoming a burden. What about our business that’s the hardest hit?

“I have new songs that need to be recorded, but we are uncertain if we can go ahead because load-shedding may hit us in the middle of the recording session. I hope my two upcoming shows, later in the year, won’t face load shedding and the problem will be solved soon.”

In a statement, mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said the City was determined to end its reliance on Eskom-generated power as soon as possible,

“We simply must do more to protect our residents from the dire failure to provide even the most basic services at a national level – be it energy, policing, public transport, bulk water, you name it.

“We have to make sure that this is the last straw, by pushing as fast as we can to devolve the generation of electricity and other critical services from a national government that is clearly collapsing”.

The City had been using its Steenbras Dam hydroelectricity plant to cushion Capetonians from the full impact of Stage 6 load shedding, but some of that capacity had to be kept in reserve in case load shedding got worse, he said.

“And even this system has its limits. If Stage 6 is in place for most of the week again, the lower reservoir will fill up, and there won’t be enough time to pump water up fast enough to drain the reservoir and keep the turbines producing. Put simply, water runs down the hill much faster than it can be pumped back up.

“Importantly, the severity of this load shedding also means our infrastructure is taking a real beating.

“Heavy machinery – such as water pumps, sewage pump stations, electricity transformers and substations – is just not made to take this kind of abuse. The constant on-again-off-again is causing dozens of localised trips. Our teams are out in full force dealing with these local faults, and most can be resolved quickly. Some take longer.”

The City has deployed more than 100 extra traffic officers and 100 extra law enforcement and metro police officers, to help manage the traffic consequences and to be a visible safety presence in communities, he said, adding that the Disaster Operations Centre would be activated for as long as Stage 6 persisted.

Wynberg East Neighbourhood Watch has increased patrols during load shedding.
Musician Lionel Smith says he is reluctant to record new songs because of load shedding.