While South Africans worry about the prospect of blackouts thanks to protests at power utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., the company’s own office lights just went out.
Workers are picketing at the northern Johannesburg headquarters, as well as blocking the entrance to power stations around the country after Eskom, which supplies almost all of South Africa’s power, insisted it can’t afford a pay increase this year.
“Power supply has just been ‘mysteriously’ cut off at Eskom head office Megawatt Park,” spokesman Khulu Phasiwe said on Twitter.
The state-owned company, which got a new board and chief executive officer this year, is struggling to overcome years of poor management and financial performance amid a series of corruption scandals. Protesting workers have hindered access to some power plants and executives said they can’t guarantee that power supply will be maintained.
Legally the workers aren’t allowed to strike because the provision of electricity is considered an essential service.
Power security at risk
Eskom said security of power supply could be threatened as workers protest the utility’s insistence that it can’t offer pay increases.
While all power plants are running, nine have been affected by the labor action and some aren’t receiving coal, Eskom told reporters on Wednesday at the utility’s headquarters in Johannesburg.
The utility “can’t guarantee” that security of supply isn’t under threat, said Thava Govender, Eskom group executive for generation. “Some of the stations are battling and they’re running at lower load.”