As load shedding seems to be in full swing and showing no sign of getting better, all Grahamstown residents are inconveniently left in the dark and left to adjust to the situation. However, how do the businesses in Grahamstown, depending largely on power supply to operate, deal with the national electricity crisis? Luyanda Mahlinza spoke to local businesses to find out how their experiences of this crisis effect the operation of their businesses.
- Pick ‘n Pay:
Pick ‘n Pay have somewhat monopolized Grahamstown, most especially during load shedding. As one of the largest earning businesses in Grahamstown, the dependency on the grocery story is quite fixed. Brian Archer, floor Manager of Pick ‘n Pay explains that filling up their generator costs up to R9000 and with load shedding becoming an inclining problem, they find themselves having to fill up their generator every second week. The influx of customers increase rapidly during load shedding and this both aids and puts pressure on the local grocery store. “We do our best to refill our generator as frequently as possible. We’ve only had one incident where our generator did not kick in after a power cut during April and this is something we try our best to avoid,” says Archer.
Spur are quite fortunate in that they share a generator with the adjacent Graham Hotel. This of course does not supply power to the whole restaurant and they often make use of candles and solar lighting on each table to provide some light. This has been received well by customers as it adds to a particular ambiance; however their lack of sound and television, which usually broadcasts recent sports matches, is definitely noticed. Reinette Van Wijk, second-in-charge manager of Spur, expresses that the use of gas grillers has greatly assisted their operation. Their production of meals, though much slower, is not entirely affected. They were unfortunate, one week during May, to have their shared generator unexpectedly break down. This terminated their day to day operation completely and this led to them having to fully close down every time there was a power cut. “We are doing everything we can with what we have. We are currently in the process of purchasing a back-up generator as our franchiser hopes to place back-up in a majority of the Spurs across the country to remedy the effect of the national load shedding issue,” says Van Wijk.
Maxi Gas is Grahamstown’s local supplier of gas and alternative energy. So in this power crisis, they have naturally seen a huge increase in sales of a range of products, from Cadac gas cylinders to two plate stoves and solar lamps. Store manager, Neil de Vries, explains that, even as a business in the field of alternate energy, they are not exempt from the struggle of load shedding. But they adapted very well and make use of effective systems to ensure the operation of their business is not affected. “ We make use of an inverta system which is a back-up power system that supplies 4 hours of uninterrupted battery power supply which makes sure our computers, lights and other electrical appliances are still working and makes sure we can continue business. Our Inverta system runs the shop on 220V of battery power which is more than enough to keep us going,” says de Vries. De vries explains that he lives efficiently in his home by making use of solar power and LED lighting. He encourages everyone start thinking about changing their power supply and is puzzled as to why this has not yet become the norm.
- Rat and Parrot
The Rat and Parrot is well known to be a local favourite. As the one of the most successful pub and restaurants in Grahamstown, their need for a generator to meet their ever-increasing demand is absolutely vital. The Rat and Parrot had a small generator last year, which supplied power for sections of lighting and some appliances. However, in May they made the decision to buy a bigger, more automatic generator to additionally power the main section, both upstairs and downstairs bar lights as well as all the televisions, knowing the high demand to watch major football and rugby matches . Dudu Nyakotyo, food and beverage manager, explains that the Rat really need to ensure that they made provisions for the frequent power cuts, especially with the National Arts Festival around the corner. “We are incredibly prepared. We are fully aware of our rapid increase in customers especially when load shedding occurs so we have tried to make sure we are absolutely prepared. In addition to our change in type of generator, we have implemented training programmes for our staff to make sure they know how continue operation during power cuts,” says Nyakotyo.
Musica does not have generator. Their day to day operation is hugely dependant on power supply to administer transactions, lighting and sound in the store. Nandipha Finca, employee of Musica, says they are forced to terminate all transactions and usually have to wait for about 3 hours to continue operation. “We just sit around and do nothing because the whole store will be dark and we wouldn’t be able to help customers. We end up closing the doors and only open them up again when load shedding is finished,” says Finca.
- Red Café
Red Café is a restaurant that has developed into a local favourite. With no generator, due to the lack of budget, they also struggle to adapt to day time power cuts and find it inconvenient when load shedding occurs off schedule. The manager and staff of Red Café do the best they can by preparing sustainable amounts of coffee and other beverages and prepare meals beforehand to remedy their loss of business when load shedding hits. Louise Boy, owner of Red Café, expresses her concern with unscheduled load shedding and explains that this has huge implications on the running of her Café. “It would be a lot easier for us to make a plan if we knew exactly when the load shedding was going to happen and we knew what stage we were in,” say Boy.