Namibia Power Corporation (Nampower) spokesperson, Tangeni Kambangula, has given assurance that the country will not be plunged into darkness next week when Eskom employees embark on a two week strike.
She added that the power utility is fully prepared to deal with the effects of a strike action of the employees of neighbouring South Africa’s national power utility, Eskom which supplies the bulk of power consumed in Namibia.
According to media reports from South Africa Eskom employees will engage in an industrial action from the 8th of August to protest for salaries and the strike will last for two weeks.
Namibia, who struggles to generate enough power for local consumption much like the most countries in Southern Africa, imports the bulk of its outside energy supplies from South Africa.
Kambangula, however, noted that Nampower will be able to use its internal sources in case of any urgent energy requirements.
She explained that Nampower does not solely depend on imports from Eskom therefore the industrial action at Eskom will not affect Namibia very negatively.
“NamPower is a member the Southern African Power Pool and thus trades energy with Eskom, ZESA (Zimbabwe), ZESCO (Zambia), BPC (Botswana) and EDM (Mozambique). Despite it being a competitive pool, it also acts as a cooperative pool where members support each other during times of need,” she said, adding that, “Nampower is thus prepared to supplement its energy requirement with its internal energy sources should there be a shortfall”.
Although many Namibians are fearing that the Eskom strike might result in power cuts or load shedding Kambangula was upbeat saying that past industrial actions at Eskom of similar nature never resulted in curtailment of power to Namibia or to its neighbours before, adding that, Eskom has always honoured its contractual obligations to its neighbours.
The dispute between the striking workers and Eskom bosses started when National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in South Africa has asked the power utility to adjust its member’s salary with no response from management triggering the Union to decide to down tools from August 8, declaring a wage dispute.
The strike was said to cause immense damage to business in South Africa and reports emanating from that country show that the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) facilitated a meeting between Eskom and its three largest unions, but no agreement was reached and an arbitration certificate was issued.
Despite the strike that aims to push Eskom to increase its employees’ wages, the company has experienced many difficulties in the past causing a slowdown in the economy.
According to reports, Eskom previously experienced power cuts that crippled the country’s economic growth, but South Africa since managed to keep the lights on for more than six months and the outages may not return in the next few years. The improved outlook is less about what the state power utility is doing and more to do with the economic slowdown.
Further, the power cut has also caused a rout in metals prices that damaged the mining and lower global demand has curbed manufacturing, which together make up 20 percent of the gross domestic product of Africa’s most industrialised country. Several reports further shows that less demand on Eskom’s electricity supply also exacerbates the financial issues faced by the company.
According to research, Namibian power utility Nampower has been exporting electricity to its South African counterpart Eskom, which was struggling to meet demand.
Last year, Nampower has exported up to 200MW of electricity to South Africa that came from Ruacana hydropower plant on the Kunene River bordering Angola. The Kunene River flows strongly, sometimes at 300 cubic metre per second, driving the turbines at the power plant.
However, Namibia usually imports roughly 60% of its power from neighbouring countries, including South Africa.