Gordhan on why Eskom is not in a state of disaster

Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan says the government has not considered declaring a state of disaster to respond to the energy challenges being faced by Eskom – because the power utility could introduce progressively higher levels of outages to keep the grid from going offline.

Responding to oral questions in parliament on Wednesday (4 May), Gordhan said that the existing Disaster Management Act is not fit for dealing with these types of issues. Instead, he said that the problems facing the utility are largely related to corruption – highlighting the damage caused by the Gupta family and state capture under the presidency of Jacob Zuma.

“There should therefore be a distinction made between a state of disaster just for ‘dramatic effect’ compared to a power system emergency. It falls within the purview of the system’s operator (Eskom). At all times the main imperative is to avoid the total collapse of the grid as occurred in California and more recently in Texas.

“There are therefore internal plans to manage the power system which will allow (Eskom) to implement up to stage 8 load shedding to avoid total collapse. At this stage, there is absolutely no requirement for Eskom or government to declare such an emergency.” Gordhan added that Eskom needs to add 4,000MW – 6,000MW of additional power just to perform maintenance duties.

Stage 8 load shedding – which has not been introduced in South Africa until this point – would see as much as 13 hours of power cuts a day

Eskom chief executive, André de Ruyter, has dismissed any suggestion that the South African power grid is in immediate danger of a total system blackout.

“We have this tool (load shedding) at our disposal. We have significant buffer capacity in the load shedding system before we approximate even close to a total system blackout,” he said.

The Eskom chief said that the load shedding system provides for a reduction in load to as high as Stage 8, adding that this gives headroom in the system to avoid a total blackout.

“I would caution against speculation (of a total system collapse). I would caution against fear-mongering and stoking of speculation and fear in this regard. We do have plans in place. We have the capability of recovering, and we do not anticipate this as a credible risk at this point in time,”.

Stage 2 load shedding 

Eskom confirmed on Thursday morning that stage 2 load shedding is set to continue throughout the weekend until 05h00 on Monday (9 March).

This follows a shortage of generation capacity owing to delays in returning generators to service, as well as breakdowns of nine generators.

For people living in the major metros, load shedding schedules are available here:

For access to other load shedding schedules, Eskom has made them available on loadshedding.eskom.co.za.

Smartphone users can also download the app EskomSePush to receive push notifications when load shedding is implemented, as well as the times the area you are in will be off.


Read: Eskom explains how we consume power during winter in South Africa – and why the end of May is a big concern

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Gordhan on why Eskom is not in a state of disaster