Eskom was on Friday granted a court interdict to stop what it regards as an illegal wage strike at nine of its power stations.
The struggling power utility is blaming the ongoing unprotected labour action by its employees for its decision to further plunge South Africans into darkness – the country is now in stage 4 load shedding until Sunday morning.
Protests at most of the utility’s coal stations are ramping up after wage negotiations collapsed between unions earlier this week.
As electricity is an essential service, industrial action is not permitted, but intimidation and operational disturbances have grown and could add to existing constraints to the grid.
Eskom’s leadership is again scrambling to explain the rationale behind the latest escalation in power cuts.
“Eskom is actually the one responsible for how we got here, why did they walk out of talks, which provoked a lot of anger amongst workers? Can we come back to the negotiating table, so that we can resolve this.” said Phakamile Hlubi-Majola.
Giving an update on the status of the grid Chief Operations Officer Jan Oberholzer revealed how some Eskom employees faced intimidation by those who did not want Eskom employees to report to work.
“We have experienced numerous intimidation and other forms of illegal activity. Eskom cautions, unfortunately, the public that should these criminal acts of intimidation, strike persist or spread, this will increase the risk of operational disturbances and the implementation of load shedding at higher levels.”
While incidents of stone-throwing, threatening SMSes and workers being dragged out of their positions at a power station were also reported.
Oberholzer said Eskom was deemed an “essential service” – meaning any strike there is, by definition, unprotected – which means workers taking part could face dismissal
With no clear outlook in sight, South Africa will have to bear the brunt of the standoff between the unions and the utility.