February 13, 2019 / 5:48 AM / 3 days ago

South Africa's Eskom extends power cuts to fourth day as capacity shortage persists

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African power utility Eskom said on Wednesday it would implement electricity cuts for a fourth straight day, as the struggling state-owned firm battles a shortage of capacity that threatens to derail government plans to lift the sluggish economy.

The cash-strapped company said it would cut 3,000 megawatts (MW) of power from the national grid from 0600 GMT on Wednesday, likely until 2100 GMT. The utility started implementing controlled power cuts on Sunday.

Around a third of Eskom’s 45,000 MW capacity was offline on Tuesday.

Eskom also said it was concerned that a planned national strike over job losses on Wednesday led by labor union COSATU could pose further risk to its operations.

“We have activated contingency measures in the event that employees participate in the strike action and should there be further impact on our operations,” Eskom said in a statement.

South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa is trying to reform Eskom, which supplies more than 90 percent of the power in Africa’s most industrialized economy but is drowning in more than $30 billion of debt, to lift the economy before an election in May.

Ramaphosa, who announced a plan last week to split Eskom into three separate entities in an effort to make it more efficient, has said the latest power cuts are “most worrying”.

Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu

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