As Eskom cut electricity nationally for hours at a time on Monday, South Africa was reminded that the negative effects of load shedding go far beyond mere inconvenience: chaotic traffic, failing cellphone networks, a dented rand, rotten food, and drastically reduced productivity. In the sudden escalation of stage 2 load shedding to stage 4, meanwhile, many smelled something fishy.
The first notification came on Saturday, 9 February.
"NOTICE: Eskom will implement stage 2 of load shedding from 1pm this afternoon until 10pm tonight," tweeted Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe.
"The power system is constrained due to a number of breakdowns. Apologies for the inconvenience that this will cause."
This was followed by a warning that there was a "high probability" of load shedding during the week beginning Monday, 11 February as well.
"With the depletion of our water and diesel resources, there is a great likelihood that we'll start the new work week from a weak operational position," Phasiwe cautioned.
Monday duly saw stage 2 load shedding implemented across the country. In the morning, Eskom's senior general manager for demand management, Andrew Etzinger, did the rounds of radio stations to explain why stage 2 cuts were necessary.
Reasons cited by Etzinger...