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After decades as South Africa’s arch bear, political scientist Dr Frans Cronje has of late been a surprising outlier in the gloomy norm. In this interview, the chairman of the Social Research Foundation shares upbeat conclusions after detailed research into how to fix load-shedding. The solutions, he explains, are relatively simple and already being enacted. And from the ANC’s perspective, should be perfectly timed to provide a welcome boost to flagging voter support just ahead of next year’s critical National Election. He spoke to Alec Hogg of Biznews.
Relevant timestamps from the interview
- 01:49 – Frans Cronje on Andre de Ruyter’s book and the Social Research Foundation’s recently published report
- 05:21 – Cronje on the level of corruption in the ANC
- 07:26 – On the Social Research Foundation’s recent report detailing how load-shedding can be resolved
- 14:43 – On the timeline of a successful rebuild and revamp of SA’s electrical infrastructure
Excerpts from the interview
Frans Cronje on the severe level of corruption in the ANC government
The depth and extent of corruption [and] malfeasance is so serious, and the cost of rooting it out for the ANC would be so destructive to its own ranks. Years ago, an estimate was done of what share of the senior leadership of the ANC have been implicated in allegations of serious corruption – enough to go to jail for a very long time – and [it was] concluded that it was a majority of the senior leadership. That makes it very difficult in practice for the ANC to act against corruption because the first big fish to go down might not go quietly and will take others with, and it’s perfectly feasible to consider that if the ANC did act with great firmness against corruption, the party would not survive [and] the leadership ranks would be devastated. The internal acrimony and conflict would be unsurvivable.
Cronje on the Social Research Foundation’s blueprint to fix load-shedding
There is a lot of underutilised capacity that can be brought back into operation, and if that is done, loadshedding can be eliminated within 12 months… [And] if we achieve 60% of the potential generation output that is available to us at the moment, [then] within 12 months load-shedding should be very much reduced. [And] the electricity ministers are very much [thinking] along these lines [and] as is the government. So it’s plausible that a year from now the load-shedding position is going to be much better. Why don’t I tell you that it will definitely 100% be much better? Because no country – for reasons other than terrible natural catastrophes or civil war – has ever run out of electricity. And the people who [caused the] run out are very much [the] same people that [are supposed] to get us out of this hole again. So I have some doubt about the ability of the South African government to deliver even on something which is as straightforward and easy as this.
[And] on [a] 60-month view: without building a [new] power station, without building a [new] power line, we can actually put our economy back on track. And if that sounds deceptively simple, [it’s because] it is. Why is it so simple? Because no serious countries ever run out of electricity, and the [main] reason we ran out is not just that we failed to invest in the future, but that we allowed the running down of some pretty solid infrastructure that was built here over the past several decades. And if we give that infrastructure a second lease on life, we are in reach of solving or making great progress in solving many of the country’s social and economic crises and fronts.
Government corruption is not the primary instigator of the electricity crisis
The significant part of the reason why load-shedding is so dire, is a policy decision to move away from coal far too quickly. The corruption is a contributing factor, of course, but remember, many of the stages of production that can come back in 12 months relate to raising the efficiency of the coal fleet and seeking environmental permission to bypass certain controls. I think there was an era over the last 2 to 3 years where government policy makers – some people in the Ramaphosa camp – were moving far too quickly away from the resource that had underpinned energy production in the country for the past hundred years. And those decisions [were] very important and need to be taken into account [when] explaining why load-shedding is as severe as it is today. And if you are of the view that hydrocarbons are not an acceptable energy source in the medium-term for South Africa, you cannot solve the country’s load-shedding problem.
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