Load shedding crippling small business

Design26 founding director, Suraya Williams, is flanked by Eureka Speelman, on the left and Nikita Cloete, who took part in Ms Williams’ free sewing training.

A small clothing manufacture business in Westgate says load shedding feels like a second pandemic and is crippling their commerce.

Suraya Williams, the founder of Design26, which manufactures and sells women’s and baby clothing and provides free training to young unskilled and unemployed women, says every area of their business is dependent on electricity.

Ms Williams said they operate between 8am and 5pm but due to load shedding their staff are sometimes only able to work for four hours a day.

“We also have to pay them for a full day of work which affects us badly because sales are also dropping,” said Ms Williams.

The outreach programme has also been put on hold because of power cuts.

“Our sewing skills training programme has also been cancelled indefinitely due to load shedding. We can only cut with scissors. We can’t iron garments. Every operation of our business is dependent on electricity,” said Ms Williams. “For a small business like ours to allow our staff to work overtime after the power goes on will further cripple our cash flow because we cannot afford any additional costs.”

Ms Williams said government should support small businesses with back up power.

“What would help is if we could at least have some sort of backup power supply to at least have a few of our machines running. Government can provide small businesses with support to obtain generators or solar supply,” she said.

“Business would die out due to load shedding. Jobs will be lost if this is going to continue for longer. People also start feeling despondent about coming to work. It feels like another pandemic where we are under lockdown because there is not much we can do but wait,” she said.

Ms Williams said the “business is hanging on a very thin string”.

“Bigger corporations,who can afford backups, have the competitive advantage over us – pushing us further backwards once again.”

Conversely, electrical contractor Ryan Africa, said load shedding has boosted his business.

Mr Africa is the managing director of Electraholic which was formally based in Portland but now operates from Maitland. He said their revenue has increased because more people are installing renewable energy.

Managing director, Ryan Africa, 34, of Electraholic said load shedding has increased their workload.

“Fortunately for the industry we’re in, load shedding has increased our business significantly. The higher the load shedding stage, the more work we are receiving,” he said.

Mr Africa said businesses can only operate if they can afford back up power which is getting more and more expensive.

“Load shedding will definitely force some businesses to cut down. If they do keep their jobs, their hours will be cut short. If there’s no electricity to the building they can’t work so they will be sent home and this will affect their total hours worked,” said Mr Africa.

Councillor Beverley van Reenen, Mayoral Committee Member for Energy said: “The City continues to do all it can to protect its customers from a stage or two of Eskom’s load shedding where possible, primarily through the management of the Steenbras Hydro Pumped Storage Scheme,” she said.

When protection is possible, it often means City customers are at different stages than Eskom customers, which is to their benefit. The load shedding protection is also to the benefit of everyone in Cape Town as it assists in protecting certain critical infrastructure and service provision (hospitals, water and wastewater) to all residents irrespective of their supply area, said Ms Van Reenen.

It is important to note that the load-shedding schedule has been determined in a manner that attempts to be fair to all areas of the city and designed to mitigate negative effects.

The procurement and utilisation of an additional 500MW is a critical lever in the load shedding mitigation efforts of the City. Placing it in context, is that a single load-shedding stage requires the City to shutdown up to 60MW. Load-shedding is now required on a full-time basis by Eskom, so the 500MW will offer significant relief.

To achieve the full relief sought through the City’s load shedding mitigation programme, we are relying on various procurement mechanisms, including Embedded IPP tenders; and the dispatchable energy tender. In addition we have launched the demand response tender. The City has also implemented various measures to optimise the operations of its Steenbras Hydro Pumped Storage Scheme, as well as increasing the resilience of its key installations such as water treatment plants.

The Plainsman sent question to Eskom but they did not reply by the time the paper went to print.