The country has been hit hard over the past few weeks by a crippling electricity crisis which has led to the re-introduction of scheduled power cuts. However, there has been criticism over the manner in which load shedding has been enforced, with claims of prejudice towards poorer communities. As a result, Cosatu are planning to launch an urgent complaint to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) over what it deems as ‘unfair load shedding scheduling’. The trade union has suggested affluent areas were largely being unaffected by the power cuts.
Whilst aware of the urgent nature of the electricity situation, provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich, said they would have expected power cuts to be equitable across all areas and communities. Apart from experiencing more instances of load shedding, areas such as Mitchell’s Plain and Langa were being affected during peak electricity usage times.
“Clearly there seems to be an unfair application of the load shedding scheduling in Cape Town. So we have asked the SA Human Rights Commission to investigate the City of Cape Town, to ensure that the load shedding schedules are fair and reflective of the needs of all people,” he said.
Ehrenreich said over the last week residents of Mitchell’s Plain were subjected to two instances of load shedding. In the same period, there had not been a single occurrence in the up-market suburb of Constantia.
Although load shedding is being enforced by Eskom, a large percentage of residents receive their electricity supply through the City of Cape Town, who in turn buys from Eskom. As a result, the scheduling for power cuts is done in conjunction between the two providers.
Ehrenreich stressed that whilst electricity was an important part of people’s daily routines, the reality was that wealthier communities had much more options when there was electricity downtime.
“They have various options of energy, and they also have the ability to just drive down to a takeaway to buy some food for their children. Poorer communities don’t have the finances for those options,” he stressed.
He also refuted suggestions that because wealthier communities were more likely to be paying more for electricity, they would be entitled to preferential treatment during the power cuts. On a similar note, he also downplayed claims that affected areas were those where electricity theft was rife.
“The majority of the areas getting the load shedding, like Mitchell’s Plain and others, they don’t have huge informal settlements where there could be arguments of electricity theft,” he said.
Eskom has brought some relief to citizens, declaring that there would be no scheduled power cuts for the week ahead. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)