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Stage 2 calls for 2 000 megawatts, stage 3 calls for 3 000 megawatts, and stage 4 calls for 4 000 megawatts to be rotationally load-shed nationally at a given period.

The country is so dependent on electricity imports from neighbouring states that a loss of 1 100 megawatts from Mozambique forced Eskom to implement this phase.

Eskom's pumped storage dams are very low on water and power generation from these units are virtually non-existent.

Eskom is still dealing with contractual issues for Medupi and Kusile power stations.

Many of Eskom's coal-fired power plants are old and unplanned breakdowns have increased after the company fell behind on maintenance as its financial situation worsened. "Stage four load shedding gave us 4,900MW and for the rest we had to utilise our diesel generators to meet the demand", Magoro said.

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"The reality is that we now have a plant that is falling [over] owing to [poor] maintenance", Mabuza said.

"We understand the frustration", Mr Gordhan added, conceding that he had no idea when a full service would be restored.

- Jan Oberholzer, Eskom COOWe have teams dealing with this but it is obviously going to take time.

To lighten the burden on load-shedding on South Africans - Eskom is working with municipalities, business and other customers to better "orchestrate" load-shedding to cause the least amount of damage Gordhan said.

Eskom and Gordhan said they do not have answers on when the power cuts will stop. "At the end of the day we don't want to get to a scenario where we go beyond stage four", the minister said.