Sunday Times E-Edition

The grid nightmare of 1975 gave Eskom a wake-up call

The article on Eskom last week, “Total grid collapse highly unlikely, say experts”, quoted several opinions on this issue. Here are some relevant facts.

At 6.30pm on December 5 1975 a current transformer in Eskom’s new Vulcan substation near Emalahleni failed. The protection failed to clear the fault, as it was incorrectly set. The resulting voltage decay caused all running turbogenerators at the nearby Wilge power station to trip.

This caused the frequency to start dropping. Every other unit connected to the grid tripped within a couple of minutes. Eskom had 149 generators installed at its 18 stations, totalling 11,880MW, and most were in service and tripped.

There were no other electrical power sources available to restart the tripped units, but some of the older stations at the coast had steam receivers between the boilers and turbines, and these were able to resume generation almost immediately. They were then able to start sending power to the larger stations, and gradually re-energise the entire power system. It took more than 24 hours to restore the entire Eskom grid, according to the book A Symphony of Power: The Eskom Story .I was deputy station manager at the biggest station at the time, and spent all night trying to restore the station’s generating capability.

Eskom learnt a lot from the incident, the only one ever to occur in South Africa.

Since then the coastal stations have been shut down. But as Eskom spokesperson Daphne Mokwena said, many of the units can now “island”, remaining on load in the event of a system fault and quickly returning to supply power once the fault has been cleared.

And Eskom also has a “black-start” facility, which is regularly tested. So I agree that a total national blackout is highly unlikely, but if it does happen the system should be restored within hours, if all goes according to plan.

Bev Lawrence, Emalahleni

Legislating racial division

The Employment Equity Amendment Act signed by President Cyril Ramaphosa is a draconian piece of legislation that will do more harm than good. While the aim is to promote diversity and equality in the workplace, the act will affect all minority communities, further alienating them from the ruling party.

At a time when the country is plagued with high unemployment and a massive skills drain, this law is not only unconstitutional but an unnecessary burden on businesses and jobseekers alike. Implementation of this act will cause employers to prioritise race over qualifications, potentially leading to less skilled individuals being hired.

Moreover, the act will disproportionately affect non-designated groups, including coloured, Indian and white communities. It will widen the divide between minority communities and the ANC.

It is concerning that the ANC is so obsessed with racial quotas, almost 30 years into democracy. As South Africans, we want efficient service delivery and equal opportunities based on merit, not skin colour. The sooner the ANC realises this, the better.

It is time for the party to listen to the voices of the people and address the country’s pressing issues, including unemployment, skills development and service delivery. The government needs to prioritise the creation of job opportunities for all South Africans regardless of race or ethnicity. Instead of creating more legislation that will further divide us, we need policies that unite us as a nation.

This act is yet another smokescreen by the ruling party. It seeks to shift emphasis away from a failed state by creating further racial divisions and tensions.

Visvin Reddy, Durban

The greening of Hillbrow

In reference to “‘This place is a mess. It used to be beautiful’: A tale of two parks” (April 30).

The park that “works” falls under the Ekhaya programme. This was the remarkable creation of my sister, Josie Adler, now nearly 80. She installed and mentored a successor, and it continues to thrive. The park was one of its later, inspiring achievements.

Initially, Josie — building on her utterly fearless, indomitable character and a lifetime of experience as a grassroots community organiser across Gauteng — worked with multiple stakeholders. These included property owners, tenants, superintendents, the police, private security firms and municipal representatives.

Block by block (each block typically having four high-rise buildings, separated by the notorious alleys), they won back the properties from crime, prostitution, drugrunning, invasions, rent stoppages and so on for the benefit of all involved. Finally, over a decade, Ekhaya won back most of Hillbrow South.

The painstakingly achieved community engagement is what lets the park thrive. At the outset, Josie was thrown out of the property owners’ annual meeting. Ten years later they presented her with an award.

Ekhaya is an ongoing, sustainable, community-driven tale worth telling. Would that the folk in the municipality or the province had the faintest idea how to replicate it.

Mark Orkin, Gauteng

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