Prolonged blackouts

Staff Writer
* BOCCIM criticises BPC for poor handling of crisis
*Gaborone householder referred to Eskom

The increasingly longer load-shedding episodes of the past one-and-a-half weeks have had a devastating effect on both businesses and individuals, Mmegi has established.

In some cases since last Friday, the power outages have exceeded the eight-hour mark across the country as Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) tried to preserve the nationwide shortage of power.

BPC spokesperson, Spencer Moreri, has told Mmegi that it could be another week before the load-shedding is over.

Reacting to the unprecedented power outages yesterday, the Executive Director of the Botswana Confederation of Commerce, Industry and Manpower (BOCCIM), Maria Machailo-Ellis, said the power cuts were having a devastating effect on business. "We are starting the year on a sad note indeed," she said.

Machailo-Ellis said electricity being the mainstay of commerce, businesses - especially those dealing in perishables - were incurring devastating losses from heat. "If you operate a restaurant, your goods in the fridge cannot survive this," she noted.

"How do you attend to customers when there is no power? In some cases, you have to close altogether. Even those in the service sector are affected. Without electricity, you cannot communicate."

The power outages could not have come at a worse time because the first month of the year was when businesses tried to get back on their feet after the Christmas break. Machailo-Ellis castigated the power supplier for its handling of the crisis. "We had no official communication from BPC until today when I contacted them," she said.

Without communication from

BPC, BOCCIM could not advise the business community about how to prepare for the crisis. "Business people have been calling us about the extent of the problem," she said. "You have to understand that some of them have to make decisions about whether to send their workers home and for how long or whether to get generators. All these decisions depend on having the full facts about the problem." The impact of the crisis has also been felt in households across the country. Apart from daily inconveniences, the power outages have caused long-term losses. Game Mompe, a resident of Tshimotharo in Gaborone, says the load-shedding has damaged her television set permanently.

Mompe says when she called BPC to complain, she was instructed to write a letter. However, upon receipt of her letter, BPC told her that it could not be held responsible because the load-shedding was the fault of Eskom, the South African power utility that supplies Botswana.

"The problem is that they don't give us a schedule," Mompe counters. "If they gave us a schedule, we would be in a better position to prepare for the blackout."

Lorato Nkomasabo of Matebeleng says the worst effect of the blackouts has been the damage to her food in the refridgerator. "The electricity has been gone since 1pm today (Wednesday)," she says. "It is now 6pm, and we don't know when it will come back. We might as well stop buying food."




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