Exactly 119 days after President Cyril Ramaphosa took office, the lights quite literally went out for the President and his euphoric reign of power as the country’s new leader. Well, probably not for him per se, because he probably has a generator for backup power at his posh mansion overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Cape Town’s exclusive and sought after suburb of Fresnaye. But for many South African’s, Thursday 14 June 2018 and the immediate days that followed resurrected memories of years gone by.
Load shedding: Another temporary fissure opening up in South Africa’s path to economic growth, or back to the dark times of previous years? The answer seems to depend on who you think you should believe at this moment.
Eskom’s spokespeople will have you believe that recent strike action and sabotage by members of the National Union of Metalworkers and others of their infrastructure is to blame, and that the current bout of load shedding being experienced is merely a temporary blip on the state-owned power utility’s ability to supply the nation’s electricity needs. That is indeed partly true.
However, some industry analysts will have you believe otherwise: That this was a thin wall that we had been walking on for some time, and now that we have fallen off it we need to find a way back up, and quickly. Midway through June, Eskom workers sought a salary increase of between nine and 15%, but the already cash-strapped power utility that supplies the country with roughly 95% of its electricity needs offered 0%. Naturally workers were left disgruntled, with some going on the rampage and destroying infrastructure and others intimidating and threatening violence against those that wanted to work. If the recent countrywide bus strike is anything to go by, we could be in for a dark winter.
Rectifying this is no easy task, especially for a company with a third more staff than they had 10 years ago, an annual wage bill of more than R30 billion, and a deteriorating infrastructure in bad need of constant repair and maintenance. Not to mention the overspending and lack of delivery on massive projects like Kusile. So when it crumbles this easily, we have to be concerned.
Topped with a weak rand, a looming fourth consecutive petrol price increase in July, mining production slowing – the country’s mining output fell by 4.3% in April year-on-year – as well as increased inflation and weakened business confidence, June wasn’t a great month for South Africans, and times are tough wherever you find yourself on the economic ladder.
Compounded with a legacy of corruption and mismanagement, Eskom CEO Phakamani Hadebe and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, amongst others, face a daunting path ahead to rectify the current woes. But if Pravin has taught us anything, it is to remain resilient. And resilient is what South Africans are.
By the time that you read this, everything may be back to normal, or it may not be. It really is anyone’s guess. But in dark times, remember to be resilient either way.
For instance, in this month’s Shopfront Focus, a uniquely South African aviation project and light aircraft manufacturer proved one of its light aircraft was resilient enough to fly a 27-hour-long leg from Rio de Janeiro in South America to Cape Town in South Africa, with some modifications to the fuel tank of course. Read on for further stories of resilience for it’s not all doom and gloom in this resilient country of ours.