FROM 2020 to 2021 the reduced demand for utilisation of electricity was because of Covid-19 and national shutdowns, which led to a slow down of industry activity.
However, three years before the onset of Covid-19, load shedding had resurfaced by 2018 after it had been declared by both former president Jacob Zuma and his then deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa on many occasions as they wooed investment here at home and in Davos.
Concrete evidence is uncontested that the duo of Brian Molefe and Matshela Koko, and their Eskom team had done an excellent job in addressing load shedding. Many a narrative emerged after their subsequent unceremonious departures from Eskom, but the height of a comical Ali-like string of these was unleashed during the tenure of André de Ruyter.
This narrative painted a picture of incompetence with regard to the duo. This was from using excessive amounts of diesel, not maintaining the fleet to doctoring the numbers. The experience of society, however, was that load shedding when these two were at the helm was over and they enjoyed availability of electricity in their homes and in industry.
Post Molefe and Koko to the Phakamani Hadebe, Jabu Mabuza, De Ruyter and the current acting CEO is a very different tale. The facts are Molefe and Koko maintained the fleet and used very little diesel.
Under the new and subsequent administrations, the expenditure on diesel has shot through the roof and breakages have intensified. The truth is we are seeing far less availability of electricity in our homes with no end in sight.
This is by no means an attempt to exonerate this duo from what the Commission found against them. However, to his credit Koko took the commission on and forced a hearing recently to clear his name.
The Koko-Molefe journey might be far from over, but one thing for sure is South Africa’s journey of living in the dark is a long way from coming to an end. The damage is deep and severe as it impacts education for generations, as well as health of citizens. Children cannot study, let alone eat. Hospitals cannot function. These two basic needs are being violated by the absence of electricity.
The question that faces South Africa in an ironically stark fashion is the continuous breakdown of infrastructure that by default meets and surpasses the Paris emissions agreement while driving a rhetoric of trying as hard to meet it through a patchy comedy of the blind leading the lame in the energy stakes.
There cannot be emissions when, during the Covid-19 period and subsequent years, it has been as low as it is. South Africa has already surpassed their quota of emission reduction and deserve to be praised and compensated by the world already. Load shedding Stage 1, which has been at the minimum has been the norm in South Africa and makes it a star performer, and load shedding Stage 4 and Stage 6, which have become the new norm, makes South Africa a superstar performer.
There is no more cause to worry about carbon emissions because South Africa is approaching the zero-emission target asymptotically and this has literally been achieved by default.
Our troubles in the City of Gold have intensified. Years back Johannesburg reticulated gas throughout the city space. This is a standard in science-based societies. But Egoli Gas recently gave a 33-day notice to residents that it would no longer use a reticulated system to provide gas and people have to now deploy gas canisters for their needs.
Just as the Transnet transport reticulation system was decimated, so has been the case with Eskom’s electricity reticulation system. These mega systems meet the public's needs. But when they get segmented, as is the case in Gautrain, which has its own private rail, Eskom, Egoli, etc it is highly problematic as it comes down to affordability and widens the inequality gap further.
Soon we will have to use portable toilets, the bucket, the pit-latrine and, for the more sophisticated, the septic tank system as the public sewerage reticulation system disappears – a central feature of liberation. There are serious disease ramifications for the country and its already strained hospital systems with this scenario.
Water by the bucket will also soon be the mode of delivery as we have started to witness daily in municipalities and recently as day-zero in Cape Town played out.
Land of the blind
Just let the blind to lead the lame, then the need for light is eliminated. We are far exceeding emissions reduction targets today and soon, there won't be any emissions to worry about. It looks like that is the real target. In the land of the blind, not only does the one-eyed man become king but he soon becomes the one creating the lame and leading them. This is what the true meaning of freedom 30 years on is becoming in our land. The Zondo Commission findings are important and unfolding in the courts of law against Koko and Molefe, but these should not then unseat the audited performance record of Eskom during their tenure. Let the facts confront each other and not rhetoric. Facts will liberate us and not innuendo.
Dr Pali Lehohla is the director of the Economic Modelling Academy, a Professor of Practice at the University of Johannesburg, a Research Associate at Oxford University, a board member of the Institute for Economic Justice at Wits and a distinguished Alumni of the University of Ghana. He is the former statistician-general of South Africa