True load-shedding would involve the ANC dumping the dead wood of clueless cadres.
Is it a contradiction, in these darkened days and nights of load-shedding, to have a light-bulb moment?
Actually, you can – especially if you live, as I do, in the southern suburbs of Cape Town. And this has nothing to do with the fact that the Western Cape is the only province governed by the opposition.
I happen to have the advantage of living close to where the president and cabinet reside – officially at least – in Groote Schuur Estate or Genadendal. This sprawling acreage of colonial grandeur was bequeathed to the nation and its rulers by he-who-must-never-be-mentioned: Cecil John Rhodes.
Being a near neighbour of Jacob Zuma and company has its advantages. Never once has the electricity been cut at Casa Leon.
A report in last week’s Cape Times confirmed that a zone around cabinet housing, in Pretoria and Cape Town, is exempt from load-shedding .
Some 20 Freedom Days ago, in 1995, the southern suburbs of Cape Town were touch-and-go voting districts for the Democratic Party.
As its leader I had the difficult job of trying to persuade the mostly middle-class residents that they should ignore the siren calls of the National Party and the ANC and stick with the liberal cause.
The ANC candidate for Newlands, renowned architect Revel Fox, seized on the fact that universally admired head of state Nelson Mandela lived in his ward in the same Groote Schuur estate. He blanketed the area with large posters of himself and the great man, under the slogan “Vote with the President in this Ward.”
So I impishly advised my audience: “It’s a funny thing, you know, but President Mandela obviously enjoys living in DP areas, in Newlands in Cape Town and in Houghton in Johannesburg. He knows the advantages of having a DP councillor.”
Our candidate duly won and the ANC’s candidate came a distant third, though whether my electoral humour helped or not is quite unknown.
Fast forward to today and this assumption has now been capsized: If you want uninterrupted electricity these days, choose an ANC grandee as your near neighbour.
The media clutter around the looting of state assets, the vast extent of cronyism and the boardroom misgovernance at Eskom is overwhelming. You can easily succumb to MEGO, to use the late New York Times writer William Safire’s acronym for “my eyes glaze over”.
There is so much stuff on corruption and Eskom serving as “an employment agency for down-and-out cadres of the president” (to quote business writer Sikonathi Mantshantsha) that you can be forgiven for averting your gaze.
But here are two interesting facts which hopefully break through.
The first concerns our nation’s new best friend, Vladimir Putin of Russia. It was from the now vanquished Soviet Union, an empire he is hoping to restore in part, that the term nomenklatura, or “privileged elite”, arose. The nomenklatura has indeed been resurrected in SA, and board appointments and uninterrupted electricity supply mark them out.
But a conversation the other day with a leading international banker based in Johannesburg was instructive.
It related to Russia’s state-owned energy giant, Gazprom. He told me that,while Gazprom benefits the politically connected, it is maintained as a going concern while Eskom has been “crippled”.
But before you fix a problem as big as Eskom you need to accurately diagnose the core of the problem.
Three times since the latest power outages began in December, Zuma has been unequivocal on the problem: “Eskom was never designed to provide electricity to everyone.”
In other words, apartheid planning provided for whites, and the extension of electricity to the whole population is the reason for the current strain.
Former Eskom board member Professor Christo Viljoen demolished this argument. True, Viljoen is a member of the old guard, but he has impressive academic authority and a host of credentials .
He might have mentioned that, of the current Eskom board, only one of its 10 members has been there more than a year. Instead, Viljoen simply points to the statistics and concludes: “Apartheid can be blamed for many things but not for the present electricity shortfall.”
The current government, on his calculation, inherited from its apartheid predecessor in 1994 a generation capacity of 37.6GW.
The same previous government had also contracted for two new plants and generators which added 4.7GW to the grid, bringing the total to 42.3GW.
Viljoen notes that if the total capacity inherited from apartheid had been maintained, “we could have avoided all load-shedding”. Instead, since 1994 a total of 37% of the inherited capacity has been “lost”.
An honest diagnosis of the plight we are in is the beginning of the solution. It could lead to the right people and the correct remedies to fix it. Wishful thinking and misplaced nostalgia certainly won’t work.
This article originally appeared in The Times