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According to Andrew Kenny on The Daily Friend, Peter Mabe, the ANC national spokesman, was arrogant and blustering when questioned about the ANC’s record on electricity supply. He refused to accept that the ANC was in any way responsible for the fact that Eskom had been mightily successful from 1923 to 1990 but then collapsed under the ANC government. He said we must not ‘play the blame game’. Who else can South Africans blame for our lack of services, particularly power but now increasingly water too, but the ruling party? – Sandra Laurence
Electricity is a political issue now
By Andrew Kenny
The DA has decided that our electricity calamity is a political issue. Good. Electricity is now a political issue; it wasn’t before 1994; the ANC has made it so now.
The DA seems to have begun its election campaign for 2024 by attacking the ANC for our electricity failures. Good. The ANC is mainly to blame for the disastrous performance of Eskom, once the best electricity utility in the world.
Yesterday, at lunchtime, at the traffic lights in Sun Valley (between Fish Hoek and Kommetjie in Cape Town), I saw a little crowd of DA protestors, dressed in blue, brandishing placards saying, ‘Load shedding is killing jobs.’ (It is – on a huge scale). They seemed to be getting a lot of support from passing motorists. Nearly all of the protestors were black Africans. This is interesting, since most people in the area are white, except for those living in the adjacent township of Masiphumelele. If they had mostly been white, the DA would have been accused of racism. Since most were black, I suppose the DA will be accused of – (well, something or another; how about ‘exploiting blacks’?).
I welcome the protests and think the DA is quite right to make political capital of Eskom’s collapse under the ANC. The ANC itself seems more worried about this than about any of its previous disastrous failures in the past.vTime and time again, the ANC ruling elite has shown its utter contempt for ordinary black people, but never before has it been met with such united hostility as over this.
The ANC elite has systematically wrecked the education and the lives of ordinary black children with its awful schools while sending its own children to expensive, posh schools with mainly white teachers. It has caused disastrous unemployment with its destructive labour laws and bargaining councils. It has cursed poor black people in ANC municipalities with water shortages and sewage in the streets. It has wrecked public rail transport for black workers. But never before has it been met with such outrage as over our mounting blackouts. I should not have predicted this. Perhaps it is just the last straw, the final affront to ordinary black people that just goes too far.
The ANC seems scared, but not scared enough to make a public confession and admit that we have at least ten years of blackouts ahead of us.
Arrogant and blustering
In a radio interview, I heard Peter Mabe, National Spokesman of the ANC, being questioned about the ANC’s record on electricity supply. He was arrogant and blustering. He refused to accept that the ANC was in any way responsible for the fact that Eskom had been mightily successful from 1923 to 1990 but then collapsed under the ANC government. He said we must not ‘play the blame game’. He obfuscated about ‘technical’ matters, without ever explaining what he meant. Tell me, Mr Mabe, sir, if we vote for the ANC in 2024, and it wrecks Eskom even more, with even worse blackouts, will you say in 2029 that we mustn’t ‘play the blame game’?
At the awful Davos 2023 meeting this month, under the auspices of the World Economic Forum (WEF), where our fabulously rich lords and masters gather to explain their latest plan for controlling the rest of us, the South African Finance Minister, Enoch Godongwana, announced, ‘Eventually in the next 12-18 months we will be able to say load-shedding is a thing of the past.’ How can he tell such a lie?
Up until now, I had considered him honest and level-headed. He must have been under great pressure to speak such nonsense in public, pressure from an ANC that seems to be panicking. Perhaps he had remembered Cyril Ramaphosa’s promise in 2015: ‘in another 18 months to 2 years, you will forget the challenges that we had with relation to power and Eskom ever existed.’
From 1923 to about 1990, Escom (later ‘Eskom’) provided South Africa’s growing, industrialising economy with sufficient, reliable, affordable electricity. It did not do this by any miraculous means, but simply by allowing Eskom’s engineers and managers to get on with their jobs. In no election before 1994 was electricity ever an issue; it was taken for granted as being plentiful and reliable.
The governments from 1923 to 1990, although white minority racist, did not otherwise interfere with the running of the state electricity provider. The only brief for Eskom was to make electricity and cover its costs. In about 1990, senior Eskom managers, mainly white, started doing stupid things. The most stupid was to refuse to build new power stations when it was obvious to a school child we needed them.
Then the ANC took over and proceeded to loot and wreck Eskom with racial engineering, corruption and mad ideology. BEE procurement forced Eskom to change from good, consistent, cheap coal to bad, inconsistent, very expensive coal. (‘Good’ here has a South African context. Most of our coal is poor, high in ash and low in energy. But our ‘good’ coal, which Eskom used to burn successfully, was of consistent quality and high enough energy content for our power stations.)
Appointments were made on race and on political connections, according to affirmative action, cadre deployment and transformation. Eskom disintegrated. This was largely the ANC’s fault, because of its political policies, which it refuses to change. President Ramaphosa is adamant in his continued support for BEE and cadre deployment, two key reasons for Eskom’s ruin.
The DA is right to attack the ANC’s corruption, racism and incompetence in its governance of Eskom. It is right to suggest that Eskom should be repaired with competent engineers and managers appointed on merit regardless of race or political connections. It is right to say that procurement should be done strictly on who can offer the best goods and services at the lowest price. (Although I wish it would be clearer and more steadfast on these things.) But the DA’s own energy proposals are a mixed bag.
The new DA mayor of Cape Town is Geordin Hill-Lewis, a confident, ebullient, highly able man. He has got off to a good start, tackling head-on Cape Town’s often neglected problems of public decay and homelessness. I was delighted to see one of his new voluntary policemen patrolling Fish Hoek Beach.
On electricity supply, he offers a mixed bag. He says he wants to invite bids for 500 MW of dispatchable electricity. Fine, if he can get it at a good price. (Dispatchable electricity means electricity when you want it, for as long as you want it – in other words, useful electricity. The electricity leaving a solar panel or a wind turbine is not dispatchable, and is therefore useless for grid electricity, of no value.) He wants to encourage Cape Town residents not to use electricity at times of peak demand, when the city has to pay the highest tariff from Eskom. Also fine, if he can implement it, which might be difficult. He wants to procure 200 MW of ‘renewable’ energy, meaning solar and wind. Not fine. Solar and wind are useless for grid electricity as has been shown all around the world, despite the trillions of dollars that have been spent upon them.
The DA wants to buy electricity from householders with solar PV panels on their roofs, with ‘feed-in’ tariffs. This is iniquitous. The solar panels produce electricity when it is not wanted (in the middle of sunny days) and do not produce it when it is wanted (at breakfast and dinner on dark winter mornings and nights).
How much does the city propose to pay rich householders who can afford solar panels for their unwanted electricity? Batteries, of course, are absolutely useless for storing grid electricity. If you don’t believe me, try buying solar panels and batteries, and tell me how much their electricity costs you to cook your supper in the middle of a Cape Town winter.
Cape Town does enjoy the benefit of the excellent Steenbras Pumped Storage Power Station. This 180MW station was built in 1979. It has an upper dam and a lower dam, with a pipe connecting them. When electricity demand is low, pumps push water from the lower to the upper. When it is high, the pumps become turbines, and water flows down through them, making electricity. Cape Town’s total electricity demand is over 3,000MW but Steenbras’s contribution to smoothing out the peaks and valleys is important, somewhat reducing blackouts.
While the DA protests against load-shedding were taking place, I heard about the ANC’s latest, incomprehensible blunder on nuclear power, which places the future operation of Koeberg at some risk. Koeberg gets half of its nuclear fuel from France and half from the USA. In the USA, the Westinghouse company makes fuel components, and then fabricates them into final fuel in Sweden, before sending them to Koeberg.
Westinghouse does this under a licence, strictly enforced, from the US nuclear regulator. The regulator’s overriding concern is to make all countries comply with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which ensures all nuclear materials and equipment are used only for the peaceful purposes of nuclear power and not for nuclear weapons. South Africa was required to sign to continue this licence on 31 December 2022. It was the job of some senior official in the South African Department of Energy to sign. He did not.
Cancelled the licence
The US regulator has cancelled the licence. We may not get any more fuel from Westinghouse for Koeberg. This happened in the middle of Koeberg’s important refit on Unit One and Stage 4/5/6 blackouts.
Why didn’t the DOE official sign to continue the licence for the fuel for South Africa’s most successful, and desperately needed power station? Will Pule Mabe tell us? Will Enoch Godongwana tell us? Will Cyril Ramaphosa tell us? Or will we be told that the ANC cannot possibly be held responsible for the Department of Energy, which is part of the ANC Government?
- UPDATED: Eskom denies plans to get rid of 500 white maintenance staff
- The ANC and nuclear power – as much about incompetence as corruption – Andrew Kenny
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