THE Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) has warned of possible load shedding as a result of the ongoing strike action by employees of South Africa’s power utility, Eskom.
LEC buys 72 Megawatts of electricity from the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority’s ‘Muela Hydro-power Station and it augments Lesotho’s daily 156 MW requirements by importing the rest from South Africa’s Eskom and Electricidade de Mocambique (EDM).
In a recent interview with the Sunday Express’s sister Lesotho Times publication early this year, LEC managing director, Thabo Nkhahle, said they import up to 30 MW from EDM, meaning that the remaining 54 MW are imported from Eskom.
However, power imports from Eskom are under threat from the latest strike action by employees who went on strike last Thursday to protest Eskom’s decision to freeze wage increases.
Eskom insists it froze the wage increases because it does not have money, but the workers’ unions that include the National Union of Mineworkers, National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUM) and Solidarity want their demands met and negotiations to continue.
In the aftermath of the strike at Eskom, the LEC recently issued a statement “to inform all its customers and the public that there is a probability of load shedding that could be experienced throughout the country”.
“This precaution (statement) is made due to the ongoing industrial action by Eskom employees in South Africa which could possibly affect the normal power supply through the transmission lines from South Africa.
“In the case of any eventual power disturbances or load shedding on the side of South Africa, depending on severity, LEC has received some degree of assurance that the power lines feeding our country through Maseru would not be significantly affected.
“On the other hand, although the industrial action was initially announced to be for just one day, LEC neither guarantees the duration of this situation nor its impact on our power supply. The (LEC) management highly regrets the inconvenience that this may cause as the problem is beyond the LEC’s control,” LEC said.
Eskom obtained a court interdict on Friday to stop workers from any further planned strikes or pickets but the South African media quoted Eskom officials as saying that acts of violence by striking workers continued on Friday night.
This reportedly resulted in load shedding in some parts of South Africa until late on Friday night.
Meanwhile, NUMSA sent a statement to the Sunday Express in which it “condemned in the strongest terms the false allegations made by Eskom against our members”.
“Eskom claims that ‘striking’ workers are responsible for sabotaging the power supply resulting in load-shedding.
“We reject Eskom’s claims that our members are responsible because our members are not on strike. Our members together with the NUM picketed and demonstrated on Thursday at various Eskom plants across the country.
“They were registering their disgust with Eskom after it insulted workers with a 0 percent wage offer. For over 10 years Eskom has been steeped in allegations of corruption, mismanagement and looting by some senior executives. To date not one rand has been recovered by Eskom for this wasteful expenditure. In spite of these shenanigans our members continued to work very hard every day in order to keep the lights on. The last time they got an increase was in 2010, but the corrupt, incompetent management team at Eskom has received increases every year despite their failure to properly manage the state owned enterprise,” NUMSA said.