By Hilary Mare and Faith Haushona-Kavamba
THE business community nationwide has bemoaned the sudden blackout experienced last Friday night saying that such an expected reality causes great losses and should be avoided in the future.
The whole of Namibia plunged into darkness on Friday evening with the only place spared being the Zambezi region and some parts of the South. The Minister of Mines and Energy, Obeth Kandjoze, subsequently released a statement explaining that the power outage was caused by an external technical fault on the Auas/ Kokerboom 400kV line of Eskom.
In his statement he explained that the areas not affected by the power outage are those south of Mariental (including Skorpion Zinc mine) and some northern areas such as the Zambezi region, Otjiwarongo and Outjo, because the power is fed through a separate direct current link from the Zambezi region to the Otjiwarongo area.
Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) Chief Executive Officer, Tarah Shaanika pushed for constant, reliable supply of competitively priced electricity as a very important ingredient for a competitive and successful economy that Namibia must work on achieving that situation.
“Any power outage is bad for business and it affects business negatively. While it is difficult to quantify the losses made by businesses in Namibia due to the last power outage, many businesses clearly lost money due to lack of production because production had to stop or due to customers unable to consume goods and services due to power outages.
“As business, we will continue to work with Government to find lasting solutions to power outages. Such unexpected lengthy outages must be avoided in future.
“The last incidence has shown very clearly that a reliance on one single source of power is risky. It would be prudent to consider having small power plants in most parts of the country as a strategy so that one fault at a power plant or even on part of a line will not shut down the whole country,” he added.
Earlier this month the Electricity Control Board approved a 16,71 percent tariff increase effective July 1 after NamPower’s request for an effective bulk tariff increase. This increase meant that bulk tariffs increased from N$1,28 to N$1,49 per kWh.
It is likely that power blackouts will become more frequent owing to the lack of incentives to invest in aged national grid infrastructure and Government’s failure to embark on envisaged viable alternatives such as the Kudu gas project.
In the far north of the country, the NCCI chairman Tomas Iindji in view of Friday’s blackout said: “Many companies are unprepared for business disruptions caused by power blackouts and are often unaware of the true costs and impact that they can have on their operations. While the majority of power failures from national grids last only a few hours … these blackouts, completely shut down production at companies and critical infrastructures s u c h as hotels, lodges, bars and restaurants. This came at the wrong time and businesspeople were not aware of this incident, which a l s o resulted to many clients being turned away due to that. It happened on a Friday after a long week whereby some families need to go eat out and spend a Friday night together. This is also resulted into sales loss,” he said. The entertainment community, whose business activities pick up on Friday nights, was very vocal about the negative effects of the power outage, which saw most of them having to close shop until the electricity was restored.
Frank Rechter, the operational manager at Nice Restaurant and Bar said that their establishment was fortunate that they have both gas and electrical appliances in their kitchen, as well as a generator which aided them during the blackout or else they would have incurred a huge loss.
However he added that because the other half of their appliances required electricity they had to close the kitchen otherwise they would have been operating at minimal capacity. The restaurant’s Theo bar made use of the generator however clients were few and far in between as most assumed that all entertainment establishments would be closed because of the outage, he stressed.
Windhoek’s popular hangout spot, Joker’s, which sees over 500 clients on any given night, was reduced to a mere between 50 to 100 people because they do not have a generator and most of their customers opted to leave. “We were negatively affected by the outage but what can you do when there is no electricity? We had to use candles during the outage so only a few customers stayed. It was a huge loss for us,” Trevor Jacob, Joker’s manager lamented.
“There were no clients during the power outage on Friday night so we had to close down temporarily. You have to take into account that the weather was really cold on that night, coupled with the outage, people were reluctant to come out and it was dangerous to drive in complete darkness. We eventually re-opened when the power came back on but people had lost the enthusiasm to go out so there were no clients,” Andrew Matjila of The Lounge: A Druza’s Concept, said.
As there was no forewarning about the power outage, entertainment businesses were also unable to take pre-emptive measures. Christophine Shinyala of Omandabi Restaurant and bar, as well as Hileni Joel of Heinrich’s Pub No. 4, both said they were forced to close down their businesses because there was nothing they could do to salvage the situation. While the latter eventually re-opened to a handful of customers, Shinyala explained that she could not re-open, having left earlier on in the night because she did not know that the electricity would eventually return on the same night.
Joe’s Beerhouse was also fortunate that it had a generator, and while they had a time lapse of 30 minutes of total darkness when their generator over-heated, they were able to carry on with business with some semblance of normalcy. “It is a very challenging situation as the staff can use the opportunity to help themselves to food and guests might want to leave without paying. The computer network was also interrupted and discrepancies occurred but fortunately we did not incur any obvious major losses. The biggest risk lies in the duration of the outage and as it is difficult to retain customers indefinitely,” she said. However one establishment that seemed to take the outage in its stride was the Warehouse Theatre, who made the most of the outage. Chris Chameleon was scheduled to perform in the Warehouse Theatre and while Lize Ehlers performed in the Boiler Room. Chameleon continued with his show by candlelight, however Ehlers had to stop because the Boiler Room was too full to use candles, instead the guests kept the room illuminated using their phones. “Chris handled the situation so professionally, he didn’t even comment on the power outage, he just asked if everyone could hear him and we spent an hour listening to him playing requests from the audience. Lize had to stop after a while as the Boiler Room was too full to safely place candles (due to fire risk) so we had to stop that show unfortunately. We all had fun; the police came by regularly to see if we were all ok. We had a festive mood going and were almost sad when the power came on again,” Conny Pimenta of the Warehouse Theatre said. not knowing when it will return
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015