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In January, South Africa averaged out at Stage 4 load shedding – up from around Stage 2 last year


  • Load shedding was very bad in January.
  • Stage 6 – nearly unthinkable, not so long ago – was declared three times.
  • But it was the constant use of Stage 4 and Stage 5 load shedding that really bit, over the course of the entire month.
  • On average, Eskom declared Stage 4 load shedding in January, as opposed to the Stage 2 to 3 averages South Africans have grown more used to.
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January was significantly worse than December for those who rely on Eskom for power – and way, way worse than October and November, crunching the month’s load-shedding numbers shows.

In the latter part of last year, with cold weather left behind for most of the country, Eskom’s average emergency declaration hovered just under or just over Stage 2, data maintained by load-shedding-schedule app EskomSePush show. Stage 6, and even Stage 5, was never declared.

In December, things started to go wrong.

Stage 6 was considered to be only a theoretical calculation until it was suddenly declared for the first time in late 2019. Its return was considered a national emergency. But in December, even as much of the economy wound down for the Christmas break, Eskom declared Stage 6 on three different days. The result was an average load-shedding state of just above 3.

In January too Eskom declared Stage 6 on three different days, most recently last night. But it also declared Stage 5 on five separate occasions, and used Stage 4 almost constantly.]

In fact, in the first month of 2023, the once-mainstay Stage 2 was used only twice.

As a result, if you tuned in to Eskom’s regular declarations of load shedding, the average number you would have heard in January was 4.

The ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) has now backed the idea of declaring a national state of disaster around load shedding.

Such a declaration would give the executive government the same sweeping powers it wielded during Covid-19 lockdowns, with the ability to rule by decree and allocate resources without the say-so of Parliament.

As during the coronavirus measures, control would rest with co-operative governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, who could delegate authority to other ministers.

It is, however, not clear what the government would actually do with such powers. It has refused to give Eskom cash to buy diesel for its expensive emergency generators, while President Cyril Ramaphosa has asked Eskom not to implement the price increase regulators have granted it.

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