South Africa is experiencing a return of blackouts, prompting fears here of a repeat of widespread outages in 2008 which crippled the country’s economy.

The rotational cuts known here as “load-shedding”, resumed in recent weeks.

The power utility Eskom switches off power in certain areas for some hours, this is done to prevent the grid from collapsing when demand is greater than can be met.

While some have blamed the power cuts on a shortage of coal at the Eskom plants and mismanagement, the company says the disruptions are due to repair work at its generating units.

“Eskom would like to sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused,” it said in a statement today.

“We continue to appeal to residents and businesses to use electricity sparingly during this period. Please switch off geysers as well as all non-essential lighting and electricity appliances to assist in reducing demand,” it added.

Eskom has also refuted claims that it does not have enough coal reserves to meet the country’s electricity needs.

Since the beginning of the year the company has signed nearly 30 contracts to get coal to their power stations, local media report.

It’s not clear how long the planned outages will last this time. With businesses and major industries shutting down for the year over the next few weeks, some are hopeful this will take off some pressure off the grid and prevent further cuts in the country.