How world sees SA – CNN’s Richard Quest’s big takeaway from CT visit: “unimaginable” power outages

CNN editor-at-large Richard Quest is among a handful of news industry personalities whose influence transcends national boundaries. So, impressions gathered during his latest visit to SA by this globally-respected 60-year-old really matter. While Quest diplomatically avoids commenting on the 2024 Election and admires SA’s entrepreneurial spirit, his main takeaway from this week’s visit to Cape Town is the shock of experiencing regular power outages. In this interview with Alec Hogg of BizNews, the globe-trotting journalist urges SA policy-makers to urgently apply lessons from countries that have successfully tackled similar challenges. He reckons for any country with First World aspirations, the electricity blackouts which are becoming endemic in SA are simply “unimaginable”.

Find timestamps from the interview below:

  • Richard Quest on what he is doing in Cape Town at the moment – 00:05
  • On his impression of South Africa – 02:55
  • On loadshedding – 05:05
  • On the provision of electricity – 08:20
  • On his sentiment about the country – 11:10
  • On the 2024 national elections – 12:55

Some extracts from the interview:

Richard Quest on what he is doing in Cape Town at the moment

I’m here for two particular projects. One is Quest’s World of Wonder, which is essentially looking at the DNA of a place. What makes it tick? What is this all about? And then secondly, we’re doing Quest Means Business, which we’re doing live from Cape Town. That will be a lot more about what’s happening in this country at the moment.

On his impression of South Africa

Of course not a hopeless case. Absolutely not. A country of this size with this number of talented people with sheer drive and dynamism – absolutely no question that there’s no hopelessness about it. I think the issue is the level and depth of the mess at the moment. I’m always very careful when one goes and visits somebody’s house, you don’t criticize the wallpaper. You don’t go for dinner and then make horrible comments about the china. I recognize that I’m a visitor and therefore one has to have the circumspect locution, if you will, of the visitor but people have asked me here for a reason, and you’ve asked my opinion for a reason. How many other G7 or G20 countries, with advanced economies like South Africa’s – with mature functioning markets – how many of them have regular rolling power cuts and will have them for the foreseeable future?

On loadshedding

I think it is very tempting to dress it up in some cutesy phrase of “loadshedding”. Loadshedding is a power cut. And this is 2023. The reason you and I started late was because your loadshedding started, as did mine. So I think that South Africans are incredibly ingenious at working around it. But the actual raw fact that everyday people are going on these very efficient apps to find out just how many hours a day they are going to not have electricity is breathtaking. 

The funny part about it is, building a first world economy in so many ways, and the technologically advanced, you have these brilliant apps and people extol the virtues of these various apps, which tell you with micro-precision when the lights are going to go off. People will proudly tell you, “well, the app said we would be an area seven, stage four and tomorrow we’ll be at stage five”. Everybody’s going around saying this, conveniently forgetting, what are you really talking about? You’re talking about something that would be unthinkable in the US, Germany, Italy, the Australia, the UK. It would be unthinkable that for weeks at a time, 100 days, I believe so far. And you’re not losing power for 10 minutes it’s two or three times a day for several hours, up to 8 hours a day. This is what I find extraordinary about the whole loadshedding thing. Power cuts. Let’s roll that cutesy phrase loadshedding. It’s not a power cut. 

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