South Africa


Load shedding is South Africa’s blight – and the ANC is to blame for it

Load shedding is South Africa’s blight – and the ANC is to blame for it
ANC logo. (Image: Wikipedia)

This is the nub of the ANC’s problem – there is no one else to blame for load shedding – as well as so many other problems plaguing South Africa. Pointing fingers in anyone else’s direction is hypocrisy at best, lies at worst.

Last week South Africa was plunged into Stage 4 load shedding. Having massive countrywide power cuts is bad for any governing party in any country in the world– never mind just before voters cast their ballots, as they do in today’s local government elections. 

But what makes this very difficult for the ANC is the fact that it is impossible to blame anyone else for load shedding – the problems at Eskom are entirely the result of bad decisions and incompetence while the ANC has been in power.

Even worse, the load shedding that has now gone on for 14 years is also because of the looting which occurred at Eskom on the grandest of scales, protected by the ANC under the leadership of then-president Jacob Zuma. This makes the governing party’s statements and reactions over the last few days to this crisis rather revealing.

While the media focus has been on Eskom’s recent Stage 4 load shedding, it is a fact that the lived experience of millions of voters is of regular power cuts through Eskom’s policy of “load reduction”.

The focal point of this has been in Soweto, where people have electricity for several hours a day on a regular timetable. Eskom says this is because so few people in the area pay for the electricity they consume (in some places it’s understood that less than 10% of people pay their bills) and because there are so many illegal connections that the utility’s transformers are overloaded, with load reduction then implemented to protect the transformers.

Many Soweto residents claim they do pay their bills and that they are being treated unfairly. They have protested against any action to install prepaid electricity meters.

This is one of the reasons that the ANC officials and President Cyril Ramaphosa have spent so much time in Soweto during this election campaign. It was an attempt to appease these voters.

Now, the entire country has just lived through nearly a week of what Sowetan voters live through on a daily basis.

The ANC’s reaction to this has been startling.

In a statement released by the party’s spokesperson, Pule Mabe, the party said, “The ANC is by all intents and purposes quite concerned that these acts may be the deliberate actions of some within Eskom for political ends.” 

It provided no evidence for this claim.

Rather, it said that there was “inconsistency in information and assurances received from the utility”.

But this also may not be true. On the Monday before load shedding intensified, the top leadership of Eskom had held a press conference, taking questions and agreeing to interviews. It may be difficult to make the claim of a lack of transparency.

Also, Eskom is public with its information, and its system of issuing “power alerts” when problems crop up gives regular indications of what could happen.

Then the deputy secretary-general of the ANC, Jessie Duarte, asked in public, “What’s going on in Eskom, why is this thing not able to be resolved?” 

She named Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Eskom CEO André de Ruyter and said that people are entitled to electricity.

While frustration during load shedding, and during an election is entirely understandable, the facts indicate who is responsible.

There can be no doubt that at all material times the ANC was in charge, and made the decisions that led to load shedding. From the 1998 government White Paper that predicted load shedding in 2007 (with uncanny accuracy), to the political disputes over who would lead Eskom, through the evidence of the looting of Eskom that we have seen at the Zondo Commission (which implicated people like Brian Molefe, Matshela Koko, and the ANC’s own energy minister at the time, Lynne Brown), to the situation now, it was the ANC which was in charge.

It is clear that those in the ANC understand how important this is to voters, as demonstrated by their own behaviour. The claims (made without evidence) of “deliberate actions” show this.

So do the actions of Joburg’s mayor, Mpho Moerane.

He said 10 days ago, in a statement released from his office, that Joburg’s City Power would be able to alleviate load shedding, through the use of the Kelvin Power Station, an independent power producer. Moerane said the city had signed a contract to receive 200MW from the station. That would mean that City Power would be able to protect Joburg from one stage of load shedding.

The statement was released as load shedding started last weekend. The statement, that the City of Joburg “rejects” load shedding, led to ridicule, as it was obvious that City Power was not in a position to stop it. It made no sense to do this, as it went directly against what people could see, which is that load shedding was being experienced in Johannesburg.

Just two days ago City Power said that it was Eskom that was delaying the implementation of the agreement with Kelvin.

This demonstrates both how worried the ANC is about Joburg and how it believes load shedding is damaging to the party.

But what is not clear is whether those in the party who criticise Eskom and its leadership have an end in mind, or whether it is just a tactic to survive today’s elections.

It is well-known that De Ruyter and his team (as well as Minister Gordhan) took over Eskom after it had been badly damaged by those who ran it in the past, who were appointed by the ANC. To remove them now, or to apply pressure on them in a way that could make their lives harder would be to invite worse outcomes for South Africa, even in the near future.

If, for example, De Ruyter were to resign, who would take over? Is there anyone in the country with the credibility, competence and ability to do the job who would take it?

Surely not.

This would be a bad outcome for Eskom and for the country. The science/technology of our situation, that Eskom’s power plants are old, need maintenance and have been badly run, cannot be wished away.

No political solution can defeat Nature and its laws. It is delusional to think otherwise. 

And this is the nub of the ANC’s problem – there is no one else to blame for load shedding – as well as so many other problems plaguing South Africa. Pointing fingers in anyone else’s direction is hypocrisy at best, lies at worst.

It is difficult to assess what the impact will actually be, particularly in Joburg. However, in an election where turnout is important, it is possible that some ANC supporters will stay away, and some DA supporters will feel the need to punish the ANC.

But that is not certain. The ANC’s “Apology Tour” campaign may well have worked; for some people to see the president and the party humbling themselves through an apology could be important.

And the fact that by Monday morning there will not have been load shedding for nearly three whole days could mean that feelings on the issue have eased.

Unfortunately, there is another question that needs to be asked at this point. This December we mark 14 years since the start of load shedding. We next cast our ballots in 2024. Is the ANC able to say now that load shedding will be over by then? Unlikely. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • virginia crawford says:

    14 years of load shedding and no one held accountable! This typifies the ANC approach – but I think housing, health care and education are in a similar position but it doesnt affect everyone like the power cuts do.

  • Charles Guise-Brown says:

    Like capitalism and market forces, democracy is supposed to be about holding people to account and voting for someone else when the party in power fails. Agree re ANC and cadre deployment and a mafia leadership ALL on the ANC re Eskom…but that is just the tip of the iceberg. The other 90% of the damage is gargantuan.

  • Heinrich Holt says:

    It is only a incomprehensible incompetent excuse of a politician like Jesse Duarte who will ask such an dumb question. She has been deputy-general of the ANC since I remember (never good enough for higher servive – even the ANC is not sure if her IQ qualifies her for something better) and she very well knows why Eskom is where it is. Jesse should thank her lucky stars. Without the current management at Eskom the system would have collapsed long ago. Jesse earned no inch of credibility to ask Andre De Ruyter any question. I do not understand why he took the job, but I admire him for his guts and resilience. Jesse would do the country an great service if she just keep her mouth shut and sit dead still. To ask her to listen and learn is unfortunately a bridge too far.

  • Peter Doble says:

    27 years of failure to govern and even get the basics right surely indicates absolute and total incompetence. Yet strangely it is always the fault of someone else. While pie in the sky promises and head in the sand ideology prevails, sadly it will ever be thus.

  • Peter Dexter says:

    The solution is actually rather simple. Privatize the whole energy supply chain from generation to end user distribution. Spain did it and it worked so well that Portugal joined in resulting in a regional energy market. Even the National grid is owned by a listed company with the state having a minority investment. Competition is fierce which means consumers benefit. This is good for growth and jobs. Instead of being a cost to society the supply of electricity is a massive competitive industry, employing thousands of people.

  • Carsten Rasch says:

    It will be a travesty if the ANC, this hopelessly inept at governing but very good at stealing party, our so-called liberators, but now our destroyers, get even one single vote.

  • Martin Dreschler says:

    I have this info 1st hand: people will vote for ANC in Joburg because they can continue to bridge electricity, if the cops come they give the cops R 50 and the cops will go away. A scenario very unlikely under any other municipal administration except run by ANC or EFF.

  • Martin Ernst says:

    “No political solution can defeat Nature and its laws. It is delusional to think otherwise.” – so true, if only the craven politicians in this country had the ability to understand this, unfortunately their hubrism is too great

  • Paul McNaughton says:

    Excellent article, Stephen.The incompetency of Mbeki”s cabinet in 2008 when they ignored the strong advice given to start a rebuild program and did nothing, was exacerbated by the looting and balatant corruption of the Zuma years and recently the blatant obstruction of Minister Mantashe to renewables. Renewables are even being promoted by De Ruyter and are the quickest solution to provide additional generating capacity and give us the space and time to implement the additional long term recommendations of the IRP.
    But Manashe wants to use power ships burning imported gas at 5 times the price of renewables, although not environmentally approved, to suit his own ends while protecting the unions and their coal fired stations which are obsolete.
    We need clean energy from a new, clean Minister of Energy who actually understands what the solutions are.

  • Jax Snyman says:

    By 2024 the chickens in the form of failed water reticulation systems across the country will have come home to roost. Possibly Cape Town, which was forced to address the problem in 2017 when faced with a possible day zero, have done anything like sufficient maintenance on the system. The cracks are showing everywhere and starting to burst out in more places.

  • Sandra Goldberg says:

    As usual , when things go wrong, the ANC casts around for someone to blame- and soon their completely dishonest wrath will fall on Mr de Ruyter- he was extremely brave and patriotic to take on such an awful job so politically weighted. How long will he be able to withstand the heat? That is the question.

  • rodbraude says:

    Heaven help us all should Mr De Ruyter throw in the towel at Eskom. He is the only sane practical voice among all those protectionist ones who advocate the continuation of coal fired powered power stations.
    It also defies every bit of basic logic that Gwede Mantashe continually regurgitates the garbage that Turkish Kapowerships are SA’s answer to the elimination of load shedding….but then we are so used to the ANC’s application of political ideology and power grabbing over any form of logic, that nothing should seem improbable to us any more.

  • Carol Green says:

    @ Heinrich Holt. To be honest I think Jessie Duarte knows full well that the ANC is 100% responsible for the mess we are in. It is purely politicking. The lies we have heard from the ANC in the last few days are gobsmacking. Sadly, people with access to few other sources of information might believe them.

  • Michael Forsyth says:

    I have recently finished reading “Dark Star Safari” by Paul Theroux which chronicles an overland trip he made from Egypt to Cape Town in around 2002. In an earlier life Paul had spent a lot of time in Africa both with the Peace Corps and also as a university lecturer. At one point in his story he tells of some former colleagues with whom he has a discussion about the fact that there are numerous colonial buildings which, although solidly built, have been left to go to wrack and ruin. Their take is that maintenance means that the buildings continue in magnificent splendour. If they are allowed to deteriorate then new buildings have to be built which means that a whole lot of people (cadres) can feast at the corruption trough again and again. Go figure where we are.

  • Mary Hammond-Tooke says:

    If solar was subsidised surely everyone would invest and this would cheaper than Turkish powerships(heaven help us!) Eskom could then do their water pumping backups during the day……

  • Mary Hammond-Tooke says:

    Andre de Ruyter; Pravin Gordhan and Lesetja Kganyago are NATIONAL TREASURES!!

  • Robert Morgan says:

    I prefer the term Power Cut. I would like to ask Ramaposeur what the hell he was doing as Jakob’s sidekick for all that time. The War Room – what happened in there? Patrice Motsepe’s Rainbow Energy – what’s the connection there? The whole thing stinks to high heaven of cronyism, patronage and a complete disregard for the beloved country they are supposed to serve. The whole ghoulish charabanc needs hijacking and driven through the portals of Pollsmoor at high speed, never to be spoken of again.

  • Gerrie Pretorius Pretorius says:

    Reply to Peter Dexter – The biggest problem with your suggestion is that the anc won’t be able to ‘give away’ electricity like it did with higher education and lots of other services. What will their supporters think of that? They may even have to actually pay for the electricity that they use … no can do.

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