Where are we as race relations, blackouts threaten

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Here we are, where are we?” It’s a line from a movie I watched the other night, entitled The Extra Man, about some aging gigolo and his protégé struggling to maintain their relevance to super-rich widows.

The intricate plot may be a discussion for another day but essentially, the morally pristine co-star used this line every time he realised the sum of life was bigger than his personal aspirations. He realised that he had to find his own position in the course of life rather than for life to fit him in snugly in its prosperous path.

Two issues this week in our space make this punchline quite a poignant reminder of our own station in life.

The assertion by trade union Solidarity that Telkom plans to target white, male employees when making job cuts that may affect more than 2 600 managers brought home the point that perhaps we will never truly and completely bury the lingering ghosts of our past apartheid dispensation.

There is some fluency in the mathematical viewpoint as white males account for almost 40 percent of the senior and middle management positions that Telkom wants to reduce, while less than 9 percent of South Africa’s population is white. That’s higher than the proportion of black managers of any gender and white females.

The arguments for or against may be bandied back and forth, but as the punchline goes, here we are, where are we?

The other issue is about Eskom this week avoiding load shedding by the skin of its teeth – yet again.

On Tuesday and Wednesday available capacity was less than the peak demand by 849 megawatts and 144MW, respectively.

And yesterday, Eskom continued to skate on this ice with supply at 32 500MW and peak demand forecast at 33 311MW, an 811MW shortfall.

How the lights stayed on is the million dollar question but it is besides the point.

It turns out, this time Eskom could not even ask the big energy users to reduce usage because they won’t have that anymore. Call it snide but perhaps the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union is doing us all a favour by keeping the strike at the three biggest platinum mines going for this long.

Once again, here we are, where are we?

Mining

Although Lonmin has miscalculated striking workers’ appetite to return to work, the company is the first of the three platinum producers to take proactive steps towards breaking the 17-week strike in an attempt to resume production.

Lonmin made an bold move by setting a deadline for employees to return to work by Wednesday after talks with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) to end the strike broke down last month.

This is primarily because Lonmin is in worse shape than its counterparts Impala Platinum (Implats) and Anglo American Platinum (Amplats). The strike has disrupted 100 percent of production at Lonmin, the third-largest platinum producer.

While Implats’s Rustenburg operations have been halted by the strike, its Limpopo and Zimbabwe operations have been unscathed. At Amplats production at Rustenburg, Amandelbult and Union declined by 84 percent, 75 percent and 86 percent respectively, because of the strike.

However, the strike has not affected Amplats’s Mogalakwena mine in Limpopo and the Unki mine in Zimbabwe. Amplats is operating at 60 percent capacity.

Lonmin is desperate to resume operations, and out of frustration management set an ultimatum for workers to return, without having the outcomes in mind.

This backfired as employees ignored the deadline and attended a mass meeting of Amcu instead. Amcu is digging in its heels and the government is not firm enough with both parties. South Africa is the biggest loser because labour relations have become a laughing stock. The only solution is for parties to return to negotiations.

Edited by Banele Ginindza. With contributions from Banele Ginindza and Dineo Faku.


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