Eskom the power giant, of South Africa remains under endless strain to supply electricity to the country. The woes of Eskom have not decreased but rather substantially increased over the past years. Eskom is a state-owned facility under the African National Congress (ANC) government, and maladministration is the fundamental reason for the disaster.
Over the past twenty years, squatter camps or illegal dwellings have sprung up around South Africa. These shacks are built on poor infrastructure with no connection to electricity. The overcrowded shacks connect to a nearby Eskom sub-station using a cable, by that generating power without any cost. Eskom has failed to control the illegal use of power from squatter camps, and government does not attempt to curb the problem. The illegal connections are not only dangerous but cost the power giant a loss of revenue and millions of unaccounted units of electricity. Eskom cannot implement plans when the illegal connections are not taken into account.
Eskom does not generate enough power to supply South Africa, yet exports electricity to neighboring countries. Botswana receives more than one-third of its electricity from South Africa. Andrew Etzinger, the spokesperson for Eskom, said that Botswana would have virtually no electricity if Eskom did not supply and that it would create substantial harm to the country’s economy. Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho and Zimbabwe receive power from South Africa.
Exporting electricity to neighboring countries does contribute to South Africa’s GDP yet causes local business to close due to non-operation caused by lack of power supply. In turn, this contributes to the high unemployment levels, crime and corruption.
The South African government managed to organize and keep the lights on for the 2010 world cup yet remain incapable of bringing two power stations online. Both Kusile and Medupi power plants are four years behind schedule, and there is no indication of when these new facilities will be completed.
Lack of maintenance of existing infrastructure is a cause for Eskom to implement load shedding. According to Eskom, there are technical faults at several units and shortage of diesel is another reason for this weekend’s load shedding. Customers are urged to reduce consumption and avoid a total black out.
The entire Eskom problem is a result of no expertise at management level, a lack of professionalism and knowledge over the past twenty years. The exorbitant salaries, bonuses and perks paid to top executives are excessive, and there is no indication of this lucrative earning stopping. High tariffs and insisting on another massive increase from consumers places Eskom confidence at an all-time low. The Eskom debt collection procedure remains uncontrolled, allowing local municipalities to escalate to the problem. Another government bailout of R10 million will not resolve the current power crisis.
The problem of, not maintaining the existing power supplies has resulted in placing the country into a severe situation. There is no reason the ANC government did not start investing in power stations during the 1990s, and perhaps the real fruits of apartheid have emerged. The power crisis in an unacceptable situation yet the ANC continue to dominate the destruction of a once respected country. Why the ANC gather support during the downslide of South Africa is unfathomable when, it is clear that there is no real leadership. The collapse of the economy, the poverty, and the hardship is tantamount to treason against the nation.
Opinion by Laura Oneale