Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)
Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

When push comes to shove, we are left powerless

By Kevin Ritchie Time of article published Feb 23, 2019

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The wags on social media declared that government’s new plan to divide the horror state-owned enterprises of Eskom and SAA into three was to ensure that each one of the Gupta brothers got their own bit. Laugh. It’s as funny as it is tragic. We will be paying for that decade of kleptocracy - you can’t use the euphemism mismanagement - probably at least for the next generation, and our grandkids’ beyond that.

Just after President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation address, the lights literally went off. Was it witchcraft? Was it sabotage? Or was it the fact that we’ve wasted billions on two of the world’s largest coal-fired generators that still don’t work (and when they do, they’ll probably suffocate what’s left of Mpumalanga), and the rest of our power stations are literally on their last legs?

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni talked tough when he delivered his Budget on Wednesday, he said all the right things.

Mboweni had his work cut out taking from Peter to pay Paul to balance the books - but as financial journalist Bruce Whitfield noted before this week’s Budget, it was a helluva lot better than taking from all of us to pay Rajesh and Atul.

But we still don’t know why the lights went off just after the State of the Nation address.

A decade ago, Eskom’s explanation was that wet coal precipitated the crisis, now we’re told it’s ash and cellphones in restricted areas, or if you don’t like that: crap skills levels, bad maintenance, poor morale and not enough whites.

The toxic cesspit that is social media has floated everything from conspiracy theories against the second iteration of Ramaphosa’s new dawn to bizarre claims of ancient treachery by erstwhile comrade Mosiuoa Lekota.

In-between, there’s just a sea of general despair.

The only thing that seems to have done well out of all this - apart from domestic generator sales - is an app that went from 2 500 users to more than 500 000 after Eskom flicked the switch.

The app sounds suspiciously like what Benni McCarthy uttered after Teko Modise was fouled in a game in 2017. We all thought it was something else, until McCarthy explained he was saying: “You mustn’t push.”

Eskom, though, pushes us all to new levels of frustration; unlike even the tenure of the thief-in-chief, the supposed main architect of the crisis. Then there was a can-do spirit, now it’s more of a can’t-deal hopelessness.

The new dawn no longer presages a bright noon, say the cynics, but is instead the harbinger of a long dark night, with overtones of the final instalment of Game of Thrones, except you might not be able to see it because there won’t be any power. There’s only enough current, it seems, for the president to be shocked at the scale of the catastrophe.

Then suddenly, the power’s back on - and stays on. And like those abused spouses, we powder over the bruises, put on our sunglasses and tell ourselves it’s all going to get better - until Eskom se push tell us otherwise.

* Kevin Ritchie is a media consultant. He is a former journalist and newspaper editor.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Saturday Star

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