Parts of the Tshwane area remain without electricity following the collapse of electrical pylons on the N4 on Sunday night. The collapse of the 132kv powerlines has resulted in a power outage affecting large parts of Pretoria East and North. This is an unfortunate continuity of the recurring power outages that South Africans have to grapple with, while the power utility, Eskom, seems to be struggling to get the situation under control.
Eskom has announced that Stage 5 load shedding is set to return later this week due to capacity constraints. Eskom confirmed that an increase in demand after the Easter weekend would put additional strain on the power generation system and may require an increase in the stage of load shedding at short notice.
Currently, the unplanned breakdowns stand at 14 940 megawatts (MW), while the generating capacity out of service for planned maintenance has increased to 7,215MW, which ultimately led to the capacity constraints imposition.
According to Eskom’s statement, “Over the past 24 hours, a generation unit was returned to service at Lethabo and Matimba power stations. In the same period, two generating units at Kriel Power Station and a generating unit at Kendal Power Station were taken offline for repairs.”
The delays in returning units to service at Camden, Lethabo, Kriel, Medupi, and Tutuka power stations have contributed to the current capacity constraints. Eskom has promised to update the public as soon as any significant changes occur.
However, response time by Eskom engineers to the faults is also a significant cause of concern. Reports by locals claim that faults are not being attended to as swiftly as they should in their respective areas. Poor response time from Eskom to power disturbances has been a long-standing issue that has often led to frustrations for households and industries across the country. Eskom management needs to work closely with the regional offices to get these faults resolved timeously.
The situation in Tshwane is the latest example of the effect of poor infrastructure maintenance, which has become a concern for most South Africans. The Tshwane incident is an indication that Eskom needs to urgently address its ageing infrastructure as well as the poor quality of services that it provides.
Meanwhile, the City of Tshwane has reported that it is still assessing the extent of the outbreak, which has devastated the smooth flow of traffic on the N4 highway. According to the city spokesperson Selby Bokaba, at least three pylons were vandalized, causing the power lines to collapse and fall on the road. Bokaba said that the damage caused involved at least seven powerline structures which have collapsed and badly damaged.
The estimated time for restoration remains unknown, and the city has apologized for the inconvenience caused by the power outage. It is unfortunate that despite the known security issues, irresponsible members of the community still vandalize and damage essential infrastructure that is critical to the well-being of the country, which inevitably increases the burden on those who have to endure the recurring power outages.
The question now is how long Eskom will continue with the load shedding, and, more importantly, how long it will take to get the Tshwane situation under control, as well as the other regions affected by these outages. It is critical that Eskom prioritize the replacement of old and failing infrastructure to ensure that South Africa has an endless power supply that will facilitate economic growth and improve the living standards of all inhabitants.