Change electricity industry

Na-lightA LOT has been written about the problems facing Eskom. The disappointing side to the story is the attitude of the government for not wanting to change the status of Eskom, for instance privatisation.

In other underperforming sectors of government, such as railways, health, education and postal services, the private sector has at least alternatives. A privatised Eskom surely would in times of supply constraints first cut off those entities owing it money or illegally connected users.

Many municipalities are in arrears. Many councillors have dodged over the years the disconnecting of non-paying users with impunity.

Turning off the lights in a number of municipalities would bring into focus many other areas of mismanagement for which Eskom is made the scapegoat. Prior to looming municipal elections, the ruling party has no appetite for rocking the boat.

It would rather let the country face a total blackout than lose big at next year’s elections. Pointing out the dire consequences of a total blackout by many people in business and the general public has not led to any movement by the government.

Change can only be brought about when the voting population would more severely feel the consequences of load-shedding and better understand the mismanagement.

Unfortunately a large portion of voters do not read papers or listen to comments delivered by people in the know.

When studying the load-shedding schedule of, say, phase two, it becomes apparent that businesses can lose between five and 10 working/trading hours per week. Their employees still have to be paid for 40 hours.

Apart from the inconvenience of a few hours less television viewing in the evening, many employees might see the reduced working hours rather as a welcome windfall. As long as the loss only affects the business that is.

No wonder why the government does not see the need for change.

Load-shedding is neither the fault of the staff nor that of business. A bit of sharing of the losses would surely be in order. Here is the proposal:

Business which cannot meaningfully occupy their employees during load-shedding should only pay them on a pro rata basis for the hours actually worked during a week. This should be accompanied by an information campaign explaining the reason behind that measure.

For compensation employees should be directed to the government, which must carry the responsibility for a state monopoly. This surely would make the ruling party sit up and listen, as the effect on the outcome of the municipal elections would be predictable.

Extraordinary problems call for extraordinary measures. Let the above proposal be one of them.

No concerned citizen can continue to regard a looming blackout as business as usual or as an unavoidable part of party politics.

-H Fischer, St Helena Bay

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