As SA prepares for a possible cold and dark night as part of Stage 6 load shedding, there have been calls for striking Eskom workers to be forced back to work.
Eskom said on Tuesday that there was a “very real risk” of a level 6 load shedding from 5pm after 10 generating units went offline.
The collapse crisis has been exacerbated by workers protests over wages. Eskom will meet again with union leaders on Tuesday to try to resolve the situation.
Prosecutors asked Eskom to exercise its rights as an essential service provider and to ban the strike action.
“The striking workers are not only disrupting the operation of power plants, they are also endangering the life, health and personal safety of all or part of the population by increasing the risk high level of load shedding,” the party said.
“In relation to the Industrial Relations Act, and through its classification as an essential service provider, Eskom is exempt from notifying striking workers of their intention to apply to the labor court for a cease and desist order.”
In order to protect critical infrastructure, the party said Eskom should file a direct application to the court for an injunction to obtain an immediate halt to strike action at its plants.
The calls were met with questions about the complexity of the task at a time when the country’s electricity grid is under massive strain. Some people said employees who are forced to return to work are walking slowly or not working as required.
The country is experiencing Level 4 load shedding, which will require up to 4,000 MW off the national grid. Stage 6 would require 6,000 MW.
According to Johannesburg City Councilor Tim Truluck, the load shedding in Stage 6 on the subway “means that we 1 x Load shedding has 2 hour and 2 x 4 hour slots per day”.
The level 6 load shedding capability has revived the call for declaring a national state of emergency over the outages.< p>Prosecutors motivated such a move in Parliament earlier this year, arguing that it would allow provinces and municipalities that have the resources and capacity to generate electricity from private actors to do so more quickly and efficiently.
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan poured cold water on the call. He said it was not necessaryd for the declaration because load shedding is a tool to protect the system from total collapse.
” There should be a distinction between a “dramatic impact” disaster condition and a power system emergency that falls within the purview of the grid operator. The number one imperative at all times is to avoid total grid collapse, as has happened in California and recently in Texas, USA,” said Gordhan.
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