ANC unable to stop the rot

PRESIDENT Zuma has laid the blame at the door of apartheid, for the darkness descending upon the land.

Eskom’s problems are the fault of apartheid; Eskom was set up to service whites; the ANC has connected millions to the grid. The knee- jerk response to this was that Zuma was seeking to project his own failures onto the historical beast, making for a convenient (but unresponsive) scapegoat.

Had the ANC, after 20 years of wasted opportunity; fallen asleep at the wheel?

In this instance, Zuma is most definitely correct. Apartheid must shoulder the blame. The foundations of our energy crisis lie in the decisions taken many political moons ago.

The ANC is certainly not responsible for a nationalised electricity supply. The ANC is not responsible for building a supply network based on large energy “factories” and a “highway” grid system. While whites surely benefitted, the prime focus of our energy supply design was not a race group, but an even smaller vested interest group . . . industry! The big boys – mines and smelters. That’s why Billiton – the single biggest electricity user – is charged a ridiculously low rate for its electricity; a deal struck long before the ANC came into power.

Has the ANC done anything different since democracy arrived? Have they added any real value to the existing state institution? Or have they been happy to simply roll out the nationalist game-plan? Now, after 20 years, the quick wins have been used up. The institutional knowledge that existed at the time of transition has been retired, given a package, or sidelined. Maintenance has been deferred to ensure supply remains constant. On we have forged, holding thumbs that it all works out in the end.

But we’ve been found out! We know coal is unsustainable and a killer and we’ve known it for a long time, but it’s cheap and it’s a quick win for scoring black empowerment points. So we’ve turned a blind eye and put our eggs in just one basket.

Medupi and Kusile are now way behind on their delivery and budget and the other coal plants are up to their eyeballs in ash and cracks. Load-shedding has become a patriotic duty. Why? The Eskom game-plan is a carbon copy from 30 years ago, with two exceptions – renewables and buy-back.

Renewables have consistently delivered on schedule and on budget. Buy-backs bring the ordinary citizen into the game, making home generation a viable option. Only two municipalities are exploring the buy-back option – Cape Town and Nelson Mandela Bay.

The renewables programme is on hold, the money for the grid connections required, diverted to other urgent tasks. Again, why? The ANC does appear to have a game- plan: big opportunities for the wealthy few who will borrow from the future to pay for the lack of leadership.

Nuclear power is one such ‘opportunity’, but it’s not remotely green and we don’t have the capacity to build or finance it. Fracking is another quick ‘win’, with unknown long-term consequences (increasingly, American states and towns and now Scotland are turning away from this gold rush based on their negative experiences). Why? The ANC’s response? Well why not! Who cares about the future? We need energy now, no matter what the cost. Let tomorrow’s leaders deal with the mess we create (it worked for the apartheid government). If apartheid is to blame for getting us into the mess, the ANC is to blame for not getting us out of it.

South Africa has experienced two black-out phases prior to this round in 2015; the first in 2008 and the second in 2014. We were warned in 2008, the White Paper warned us of the same before that. We have not heeded those warnings.

Zuma is indeed correct, apartheid is to blame. But the ANC has simply done a copy and paste, and brought no leadership or new thinking to the problem.

In 20 years, applying the same principle, would the future leadership be justified in saying that it was the 2015 leadership who was responsible for the darkness that descended upon the land?


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