The battle for Eskom is the battle for South Africa.
It is better to say that Eskom is a metaphor for South Africa. It is a huge, cumbersome megalith that is completely bankrupt by people who have treated it as a personal cash machine and a political football field.
Stage four load shedding hit us on Monday as a wet cement towel that just managed to dry. Eskom is running on a prayer, and not one is directed at a deity who is familiar with this publication. The world's largest power tool should serve as pride, especially in a country that has more than enough human capital to operate its various operations exactly as announced. Instead, Eskom is a state-owned zombie apocalypse: R440 billion in debt, money guaranteed by sovereignty, and unable to fulfill its rather simple mandate: Keep the lights on and the industry wheels turn.
This is a disaster that threatens to burst the entire economy, a terrorist attack on the substance of this county committed by the very people who have vowed to govern it responsibly and (laugh no more) competently.
Former President Jacob Zuma has been busy retiring – busier than he was under his two conditions at the helm. He has been campaigning with – and apparently for – President Ramaphosa in KZN while engaging in a Twitter charm offensive aimed at portraying his presidency as unfairly malicious.
But even though his critics got everything else wrong, the numbers don't sound: When Zuma took the reins in 2009, Eskom produced 40,000 MW, had 30,000 employees and brought the debt to R40 billion. It now produces 48,000 MW, has 37,000 employees, and services more than ten times the debt. It does not generate enough revenue to pay interest, let alone wages, maintenance and fuel.
About that fuel. Eskom relies on "beautifully clean coal", which US President Donald Trump wanted to express it. Dating back to the apartheid years, the supply of South Africa's abundant, relatively inexpensive coal for supply was a patronage of sincure and lucrative in the extreme. But each batch ceases, and the quality products extracted near to coal plants are a past. There were not so subtle hints about this during "wet cool" blackouts of 2007/2008; Experts have promised for about two decades that this would be a problem.
In return, the government decided to continue building Medupi and Kusile, the two largest (and most expensive) coal-fired plants in the world – names that will end up being etched as epitaphs on this country's tombstone. Scary behind the plan and substantiated, they will add approx. 9MW to the network; a huge contribution actually, but still built to pump crazy amounts of CO2 into the heated planet's atmosphere.
Then there is a lack of payment culture – municipalities are in arrears of R30 billion. For the use – and violent theft of electricity by people without the means to pay.
Then there are the Gupta brothers, Zuma & # 39; s infamous welfare agents, who were able to receive an advance of R600 million. From Eskom, as they used to buy a coal mine called Optimum from mining driver Glencore.
So the fact that you might be reading this in the dark on a dying unit should really not come as a surprise.
Former Eskom Group Holdings CEO Director Matshela Koko, another of the crippled cretins who spread in the Zuma years, tweeted some numbers during Monday's blackout.
'Step 4 means the system is short 4.000MW. This means that @Eskom_SA does not meet a peak demand of 27,000 MW when it has an installed capacity of 45,000 MW. This means that approx. 40% of production capacity is not available. This is gross incompetence on top !!! & # 39;
Koko is right. Apart from that, until his latest forced exit, he was the top. Koko and the rest of Zuma & # 39; s kleptocrats form an unbroken century's tradition for South African elites who refuse to accept the blame or any accountability. The endless queues at taxi stations, R2 billion. Income loss every day, the waiters serve empty restaurants, the dark school rooms – that's all because of Koko, Brian Molefe, Ben Ngubane and their many fellow human beings.
(At least Koko's founder daughter saw the light, worth a billion rand, when her company snagged at least eight Eskom bids. Koko is a caring man.)
President Ramaphosa said on Monday that he was "shocked" and "angry" about the situation. But one wonders about the Vice-Presidency's office, which Ramaphosa recorded in four of Zuma's nine years, and that was the isolation from the fall that apparently happened around it. Ramaphosa, and indeed everyone in the government party, should not be angry, but shame deeply. Their saving grace on May 8 – Election Day – is that there are no viable alternatives, and no one is waiting in the wings to save the land. The people who broke it will be the people who are tasked with fixing it, because in a perfect world they would be huddled in the dark with the rest of us and waiting for competent and honest replacements to dry up in their gigantic mess.
Under his state address, Ramaphosa said that Eskom will soon be broken up into three different parts – transmission, generation and distribution. This restructuring has been a government policy since 1999. However, implementation has never been a strong point. Unions already smelling job cuts and privatization threaten war. They want one. And Ramaphosa will soon be presented with a horrific choice: dead workers on the street or selling a pre-industrial backwater to its international investment partners in the UK, Germany and China at a retail price when foreign investment desperately has to pay off debt in Zuma's free for everyone .
The lights are out for two reasons: corruption and mismanagement. For most countries, it would take a terrorist attack of unimaginable proportions to shut down the grid. Here came the threat from within – from the leaders who were elected to serve us and protect us. Their shame can only be quantified in the dark. Right now there is plenty to go around. DM
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