ESKOM and the GOD Delusion

ESKOM and the GOD Delusion

It’s a miserable day in Johannesburg. It’s a dark morning with low clouds and a cold uncomfortable breeze that catches you off guard. It’s meant to be a bright summer’s day but God and Eskom have decided that there is no cause for celebration. And neither offers us an explanation.

Eskom tries. From time to time they throw is a piece of information that we devour like a starving animal. We try and make sense of it all, we turn it and stare at it and taste it, but then in despair when we realize how little meat there is to sustain. We drop it and we wait silently for them to turn the lights back on.

I recall so clearly when the crises manifested in 2008. The major alloy producers in the country were called urgently to turn off some of their furnaces. The world of commodities was at all time high and foreign funds were flowing into the country. And South Africa ran out of steam. Literally. And then, God granted a reprieve to those who were caught red faced and the commodity cycle dipped, demand retreated and Eskom had time to address the issue.

But we know they didn’t.

Six year later and we are in the same situation. Six years. Colleagues in China, in the industry tell me that there is takes 18 months to build a city with its own power plant. In six years one could build a child, get them through the early years and teach them to read. Six years is a very long time to have achieved blow all. Six years is a disgrace and an embarrassment. The stronghold that Eskom has over the future of this country is quite simply an outrage. And they cannot be forgiven because they know exactly what they do.

The talk of delays to Madupi, the talk of tender issues, of labour conflicts, contractor stress and more delays quite simply doesn’t cut it. We are told that it will now be on line mid 2015 (assuming we can believe that) and that is four years late. In which parallel universe is that acceptable? When businesses are losing unquantifiable revenue, when we are at greater risk from crime, when students are compromised during exam time, when we cannot count on the simplicity of knowing we will have power in our homes, talk is not cheap. It is expensive and it is devastating. And it’s very, very irritating.

Because we are powerless (you see what I did there).

And when we sit in the dark on a cold and rainy morning, without a coffee to raise your spirits, we get angry.

History has taught us that we that we cannot control the forces of the universe. Floods and famine, natural disasters and illness, all creep up on us, shock and devastate and then retreat, leaving us to rebuild and recover. And we have learned that without adequate preparation losses will be greater and many will suffer. Eskom is an unnatural disaster and we need to prepare for the devastation that have, and are still set to cause.

Clearly our government has not taken this issue seriously and there is no indication that they intend doing so. There is a desperate and urgent need to challenge the status quo, to focus on the power crises as we would an earthquake or a storm that is decimating the country. It is that serious. And what they would do well to realize is that whatever other issues do exist in the country, and we know what they are, they tend to look a lot worse in the dark, without a decent cup of coffee.

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