“Hello darkness, my old friend”
Simon & Garfunkel
The best description of the recent load shedding announcements that I’ve seen so far comes from Ed Stoddard and Marianne Merten on Daily Maverick: “Welcome to stage six of hell.”
In case the latest power cuts have left you unable to read the news lately, Eskom announced on Monday that the country will now be subject to stage six load shedding.
Even worse than the announcement was the reasoning behind it, or rather the lack of reasoning.
At first, Eskom tried to lay the blame on rainy weather making their coal wet. Once it became clear that people weren’t going to accept crippling power outages because of Eskom not knowing what a tarpaulin is, they switched tactics and have settled on the more vague “shortage of capacity”.
A post on Eskom’s Facebook page released on Monday evening said technical problems at the Medupi Power Station were now to blame.
Of course, this only made matters worse since, mere hours before, President Cyril Ramaphosa released a tweet about his visit to Medupi, touting the power station as a major success.
When I visited #Medupi power station for the first time two weeks ago, I was struck by how massive it is. It is one thing to be told in a briefing that, when completed, Medupi will be the fourth largest power stations of its kind in the world. https://t.co/bjq7hpTNO7 pic.twitter.com/bupuy34lWq
— Cyril Ramaphosa 🇿🇦 (@CyrilRamaphosa) December 9, 2019
In the end, I guess it doesn’t matter what excuse Eskom comes up with.
The sad truth is that stage six was probably inevitable. What’s happening now is the end result of decades of ineptitude, corruption and maladministration not just at Eskom but in all SOEs.
While it’s true that Jacob Zuma’s nine year reign as a glorified mafia boss did us no favours, let’s not forget that the government has known since Thabo Mbeki’s administration (and possibly earlier) that Eskom was in a tight spot and would be unable to meet growing electricity demand.
However, they chose to ignore the warnings and never invested the necessary resources to expand and upgrade the national power-grid. And let’s not even get started on the failure to even start transitioning towards renewable energy in face of the worsening climate crisis.
In the end, stage six load shedding is the culmination of decades of poor decision-making and corruption finally coming to a head. It comes at a horrible time as well (not that there’s any “good” time for it) since our economy seems to be on the fast track towards recession and can’t afford a massive blow like this.
Something needs to be done quick if there’s any hope to fix Eskom’s shambling state or else the results could be unimaginably destructive.