Eskom's blackouts hit kasi business

Just when entertainment guru Max Lichaba was expanding his business empire, power utility Eskom's load-shedding has brought his world crashing down.

The Easter weekend will see the social entrepreneur opening his third KwaLichaba outlet in the Vaal, thereafter he plans to expand to Soshanguve, north of Pretoria, next year, after buying a piece of land.

His first joint opened in Orlando West near the famous Vilakazi Street in Soweto in 2015, and the second followed in Maseru, Lesotho.

Lichaba is the husband of former Generations actress Sophie "Queen" Lichaba.

The eatery and drinking hole owner lamented the fact he was forced to hire a generator for the Soweto joint, which he leases at exorbitant amounts.

"At first I had to close down my place in Soweto because of the power cuts. I was losing patrons and had to do something about it. The meat, which I have to serve fresh, was going to waste. [But] I still have to pay Eskom's bills," said Lichaba.

Lichaba said he was working on installing permanent generators at all his outlets.

But KwaLichaba is not the only place affected by intermittent power cuts.

Drinking holes are experiencing burnt out power distributors, damaged ice-making machines and fridges, damages to sound and entertainment equipment, as well as criminals taking advantage of the situation.

The electricity distributor at Chaf Pozi in Power Park, Orlando East in Soweto caught fire when power returned after load-shedding.

Manager Lawrence Mthembu said: "Our ice-maker is not working. It was damaged during load-shedding because of the high voltage.

"Our power generator capacity is small, it's used mainly for lighting. It's a nightmare when power goes because drinks end up getting hot and patrons end up not visiting us. When power goes off at night, patrons up and leave. We end up losing money," said Mthembu.

"During the day we don't have a problem. That's the time we host most of our overseas tourist patrons. But at night we have a big problem of having our lady visitors having to be escorted to the bathrooms as they are a distance away from the main building.

"We also fear for our patrons when it's dark because we don't know when criminals will strike."

The co-owner of Doornkop-based e'Social Link, Andile Khutshwayo, said they have one of the most efficient power-generating machines installed.

"We are coping well because the generator kicks in immediately when electricity goes off.

"The only thing hitting our pockets hard is the cost of diesel and the maintenance of the generators because they have to be constantly serviced even when there is electricity.

"Business is slow during load-shedding but the staff needs to be paid because they are at work."

Khutshwayo said that his message to all business people was not to rely on Eskom as the parastatal has proved to be unreliable.

"The way to go is to install your own generator or find alternative ways and sources of power.

"If you cannot afford to install one, hire one as back-up to avoid your business permanently closing down," said Khutshwayo.

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