By: Tebogo Mokwena
Small businesses in Johannesburg have slammed the City of Joburg’s decision to exempt some types of businesses from load-shedding, saying that all businesses including small enterprises should be spared. This follows a recent announcement by the city’s MMC for Environment and Infrastructure Services, Jack Sekwaila, that essential services and some businesses would be spared from load-shedding in stages beginning in June. The city is set to adopt a new schedule that seeks to cut the load-shedding duration from four hours to two hours up to stage 8.
Sekwaila said in a statement this would help ensure that the city’s economic activity did not grind to a halt. While many large power users and key business customers are excluded from load-shedding through load curtailment agreements, other businesses, especially those in industrial areas and which employ many people, will now be gradually excluded from load-shedding, in line with network configuration and rolling out of new energy techniques.
SMMEs said that while they were not pleased about the announcement, it did not come as a surprise. Phumza Boboyi, whose company Oh Ni Nonie manufactures mobile food carts and freezers, and offers admin services to SMMEs, said that small businesses may mean nothing to the government, but they brought food to the table for many families. Since her business operated in the manufacturing sector, it was running at a loss as operations had to be halted every time there was load-shedding. However, she was still paying her employees their full wages despite the drop in production and not being able to fulfill orders on time.
“Staying in South Africa now feels like we just came and begged for somewhere to hide our heads and we don’t have a voice,” Boboyi said. “For me, all businesses should be exempted from load-shedding.” Simphiwe Nkula, whose business Emerald Metering & Utility Management installs smart meters and collects readings for municipalities, agreed with the sentiment expressed by Boboyi. “Electricity drives everything, from homes to industry and commerce,” he said. “Load-shedding affects everyone in exactly the same way, and small and big businesses suffer the same effects of load-shedding.” The continuous power cuts have had a devastating impact on the economy, with many small businesses having to shut their doors.