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The Terror of Eskom

The Terror of Eskom
A sign outside Eskom Holdings’ Medupi coal-fired power station in Lephalale n May 2022. The government is said to be considering a new law to accelerate power capacity. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

It's time to call a spade a spade.


Helluva word. It conjures up images of Isis. Or sparks a memory of the Twin Towers falling. The car bombs from Pagad. The IRA.

To many, terrorism is a synonym for “bomb”. The dictionary definition of terrorism is much wider:

“The unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.”

Reading these heavy words, one cannot but agree that there’s a strong argument that the current targeting of Eskom and the South African public is terrorism.

“The unlawful use of violence and intimidation…”

It’s hard to think of a more appropriate description for the murders in Mpumalanga and the cyanide poisoning of Eskom CEO André de Ruyter.

“…in the pursuit of political aims.”

The sabotage of our power stations is not akin to cable theft. It is a deliberate act of political and gangster violence against the people of South Africa.

The purpose of terrorism is to spread terror – or fear – among individuals and the collective.

Our country is afraid. We’re afraid of our businesses closing. We’re afraid of a total grid collapse. We’re afraid for our children’s prospects. We’re afraid of having no control over our future.

Uncertainty fuels our fear. There are no guarantees (except, perhaps, that the laughable timeframe given by Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana that “load shedding will be a thing of the past in 12 to 18 months” is guaranteed to be extended.)

You might wonder where we’re going with this… and why we’re exploring the word “terrorism”.

Words matter.

If we, as South Africa, redefined the terms and arrested the suspects on charges of “terrorism” as opposed to “sabotage” of our power plants as public property… then words would matter. The Camden Power Station sabotage suspect would not have been released on R6,000 bail but would still be in jail, for example.

The word “terrorism” would matter in their sentencing, too.

Words matter because it’s how we communicate – how we at Daily Maverick are able to tell the truth to the public. We can’t take away the fear (we wish we could, trust us), but we believe that when the public is informed about what is happening daily, they are better equipped to navigate life.

You are armed with the truth so that you can have power over your life’s decisions.

It’s why we do what we do, and the way we do it. It’s also why we have never, and will never, erect a paywall and force you to pay. Knowing the truth should not be a function of your net worth.

This simple but faithful decision has resulted in an explosion of our reader numbers. A bit more than 20,000 people now pay for just more than 10 million of you to read us for free. (Interestingly, and totally unrelated, just more than 10 million people voted for the ANC in the last national election.) It’s in times like these that we are even more grateful for believing in the deep, fundamental goodness of our readers. It is those 20,000 people who voluntarily contribute a small amount each month to make sure that Daily Maverick lives and everyone in South Africa can read all our stories for free. That’s power.

To the Maverick Insider members reading this: Thank you. Your contribution is helping us report on what is really happening at Eskom, and to fight terrorism our way.

To the rest of our loyal readers: We are, as a news publisher, committed to bringing you the truth, but we are also not immune to the financial fallout of our energy crisis. If you value our service and can afford to pay, even a small amount, then we ask you to sign up to Maverick Insider. You choose the amount, and you can cancel at any time.

To the security cluster: words matter, actions too. Eskom, and with it South Africa, is under siege.

“Terrorism” is the word.

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