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Eskom: To thou abusive spouse till death do us part

Adil Nchabeleng is President of Transform RSA and an Independent Energy Expert.

Adil Nchabeleng is President of Transform RSA and an Independent Energy Expert.

Published May 24, 2023


In a normal world and society, these rolling blackouts and load shedding would not be tolerated to persist this long.

But South Africa is a unique country where the citizens are so tolerant of all forms of abuse by those in leadership positions.

It has become normal to live under these horrendous electricity crisis conditions daily. In a given year, load shedding occurs more than 300 days of the year.

This is not a normal society. It gets worse as none of those in positions of leadership seems perturbed nor disturbed about these never-ending power cuts crisis.

Last week, it was very colourful at the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa). The parliamentary committee took a swipe, yet again, at Eskom shareholder, Minister of the Department of Public Enterprise Pravin Gordhan, grilling him on his testimony and involvement regarding the Eskom secret investigation unit, which was privately funded by unknown South African corporations. This happens only in a Banana Republic and not in a Constitutional Republic.

So what is next on the list, a privately funded judicial process where companies can dictate judicial outcomes ahead of the process? At this stage, we have to ask whether government departments and state-owned enterprises are still independent or do they act as an extension of corporatocracy capture.

As the Eskom interim chairperson Mpho Makwana opened the media briefing, his first remarks were, ‘’With the winter season upon us, the power system will be even more constraint”.

We, as citizens, have experienced rotational load shedding as a uniquely South African phenomenon. This all confirms that Eskom is facing the worst scenario and will have to work miracles to avert a total blackout and grid collapse. But miracles are not only rare but visit those immersed in delusions.

In a TV interview last Thursday, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana said that his department had provided a load shedding financial relief to businesses by enabling businesses to claim more than 125% of capital on solar installations. This effectively means that businesses can claim back 25% from SA Revenue Service on their solar installation.

At the rate we are going, businesses are closing down at such a speed I wonder if these new tax incentives will achieve any desired objective. Although, the minister was convinced that these tax refunds would save businesses from closing down and collapse! As for me I am not so sure how a tax refund helps save a business from closing down as the economy in general is in a bad shape.

Businesses are closing down not because they don't have any solar. Shops and restaurants are closing down because the economy is shrinking, and fewer and fewer people have disposable income to go out and enjoy fine dining meals at restaurants. Dining has become a luxury ticket item.

Times are just tough for everyone, and that has forced many people to cut down spending on non-essentials amid South Africa’s cost of living crisis, with people having to tightly budget just to buy food amid soaring prices.

This goes deeper. South Africa has a high level of inequality. While only a few can still afford to dine regularly and the middle class has to carefully think before dining out, the large percentage of the population lives in poverty, where affording food is a struggle. And the most desperate South Africans can be seen scouring dustbins for something to eat.

The rate of unemployment has increased over the past few months amid high levels of load shedding and blackouts that have crippled the economy.

Businesses are forced to shut down, close doors and lay off employees because the electricity for most parts of the day and the evening is not available for businesses to trade. And all that Godongwana could comment on was that they had given businesses a tax relief.

Even though reckless Treasury had committed to give R30 billion for Eskom to burn diesel over the winter period to mitigate against load shedding.

Godongwana rightly said that he was worried about the cost of living but couldn't provide any further solution to the energy crisis except pointing to Treasury's newly- launched solar rebate incentive scheme and the diesel allocation.

On the matter of the Minister of Electricity, the question still remains unanswered. The minister still has no powers allocated to him, as promised.

In another electricity crisis development, the residents of Munyaka Estate in Waterfall last week took to the streets of the estate, blocking access for residents wanting to enter or exit the estate. The protests were against Balwin Properties' management due to the failure to provide electricity to the estate. The high-end R10 billion development lifestyle security closed-up estate last week was without power for more than four days due to prolonged outages.

In a statement to residents at Balwin’s Munyaka Estate, management appealed to residents, saying, ‘’We ask that all residents work together with us and direct their frustrations to Eskom so we can ensure that they identify faults and rectify them on an urgent basis’’, further saying the estate management and residents association was now considering the viability of installing a back-up generator in the estate.

The estate management reiterated that they would keep applying pressure on Eskom to repair their defective infrastructure and avoid constant and unplanned frustrating outages. Residents still remain unhappy and very frustrated.

Meanwhile, Balwin CEO Steve Brookes said on Monday that the problem was a regional node issue due to a transformer problem, which had since been resolved.

This bumpy road doesn't get any better. This week alone, a major retail chain Game store located in Cresta Mall in Johannesburg had its doors closed all day due to load shedding.

Eskom is like that abusive partner who, no matter how loyal the spouse is, never cease abusing its customers who are its own loyal spouse. Eskom is forever acting erratically, giving promises, and never keeping any commitment.

The electricity crisis road to further darkness just keeps getting worse. Eskom had to revise its load shedding stages, and now admits that possible higher stages (Stage 8 and higher) of load shedding is imminent. There is no end in sight to this crisis. Let Eskom darkness reign Supreme proudly brought to you by the indecisive ANC and Eskom.

Adil Nchabeleng is President of Transform RSA and an Independent Energy Expert.