A local organisation has called on Eskom and the government to resolve the energy crisis asap.
News reports suggest a bleak outlook, with blackouts set to worsen this winter.
Apart from a devastating effect on the national economy, South Africa’s frequent blackouts are also putting lives at risk.
Last month, a patient’s ventilator stopped working when load shedding was implemented in his area. According to Vaalweekblad, Willie Muntingh’s family tried to put him on oxygen, but he rapidly went into a coma and was declared brain dead shortly afterwards.
The QuadPara Association of South Africa (QASA), an organisation focused on providing services and support to quadriplegics and paraplegics, is calling on the government to rethink its approach to the energy crisis, and stresses that heartbreaking deaths like that of Muntingh could have been avoided.
Load shedding puts the disabled at risk
Back in 2014, a young Kimberley couple blamed load shedding and a faulty electricity generator for the death of their premature baby boy, Die Burger reported. In 2015, power cuts allegedly led to the death of a 61-year-old man after Eskom implemented load shedding twice in one day. The man, from Bloemfontein, was dependent on oxygen machines and the family’s generator wasn’t able to keep them going, according to Beeld.
QASA explained that electricity is crucial for the operation of assistive devices used by people with disabilities – from charging an electric wheelchair to running a pressure-care mattress or ventilator. “Without it, people with disabilities remain stranded in their homes or beds and even battle for their lives, like Willie,” they said.
The power cuts take away their independence, but, more importantly, compromises their physical and mental health. Stressful situations arise when they are unable to collect their medication, see their doctor or visit their occupational or physical therapist. “Not to mention their inability to go to work or socialise with friends and family, which could lead to feeling isolated,” they added.
Power cuts expected to worsen
In May this year, Eskom CEO André de Ruyter warned of more rolling blackouts this winter, City Press reports, adding that the worst of three scenarios involves 295 days of load shedding in the 12 months from 1 April to 30 March 2023. In this period, South Africans can expect to have uninterrupted access to electricity on just two out of every 10 days.
QASA commented: “The schedule is changed multiple times a day, which could easily catch someone off guard, but also results in some having access to electricity for only a couple of hours a night. This might not be enough time to charge the various assistive devices needed on a daily basis.”
They further highlighted the point that substations take additional strain during load shedding. For example, some substations this month have experienced blown fuses, extending blackout for hours.
The organisation is urging Eskom, the government, and President Cyril Ramaphosa to rethink their approach to load shedding.
“Ideally, there would be no more burden placed on South Africans for a problem caused by the government’s lack of planning and poor management. In the meantime, we call on predictable, reasonable load shedding … It is no longer only our economy that suffers, but [also] our people,” they said.