As a power shortage worsens, state-run electricity utility Eskom on Saturday implemented load shedding at a higher level in parts of South Africa.
Stage-two load shedding was implemented from 17:00 on Saturday and would continue until 21:00, Eskom said. "we anticipate added pressure on the system and call on all customers to use electricity efficiently throughout the day," Eskom said.
"We thank all consumers for heeding the call to reduce their electricity usage during this time," the utility said. Eskom first implemented stage-one load shedding in parts of South Africa on Thursday due to electricity supply constraint caused by industrial action. As the generation and distribution of electricity came under greater pressure, load shedding went up from stage one to stage two.
Stage one allows for up to 1,000MW of the national load to be shed once a day. If the pressure grows, stage two for up to 2,000MW or stage three for up to 4,000MW would be shed.
At stage two, power goes off twice a day, while at stage three, electricity could be cut two or three times a day.
The current load shedding is reminiscent of the frequent blackouts that seriously affected economic activities and people's lives between 2014 and 2015.
The ongoing industrial action, characterized by acts of sabotage and intimidation by members of trade unions, has seriously constrained the electricity supply network, Eskom said.
There have been several incidents of road blockades, attacks on staff, and wilful damage of electricity infrastructure, according to Eskom. As a result, all road coal deliveries have been stopped for security reasons, said Eskom.
Eskom is now facing a serious coal shortage at seven power stations which heavily rely on coal to generate electricity.
Eskom workers have embarked on an industrial action in protest against the utility's offer of a zero-percent wage increase. Trade unions demand increases of between nine and 15 percent.
On Saturday, Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan intervened in the salary negotiations. He convened a meeting with the Eskom board and management and the three labor unions that organized the strike, trying to mediate a solution to the salary dispute.
The spirit of the meeting was to get all parties to get back to the negotiation table, to normalize relationships and resume operations at Eskom, Gordhan said.
As the country's major electricity supplier that provides more than 95 percent of electricity consumed in South Africa, Eskom implements load shedding as a last resort to protect the national system from a total blackout which would have a significant impact on the economic development of South Africa.
South Africa has suffered from power insufficiency since 2008. Power cuts, which have cost the economy an estimated 300 billion rand (about 23 billion U.S. dollars) since 2008, again become commonplace between 2014 and 2015 after two coal-burning major power stations broke down.