ASHA SPECKMAN: Blackout woes steadily drain bright promise out of Ramaphoria

24 March 2019 - 00:08 By Asha Speckman

How much mileage, if any, is still left in Ramaphoria, given another agonising week of candle-lit dinners and cold showers as irregular power supply challenges mount?
Some restaurant owners and retailers have started closing their doors early each day — for safety reasons as much as because they are battling to maintain quality service standards in the dark.
The inconvenience is untenable.
A relative recounted this week how, in frustration, he is turning to Botswana to source a diesel generator to power his home as he was told that SA has run out of generators and won't have more before the end of April. There is already a backlog of orders.
Last year, Ramaphoria — the euphoria that ensued after Cyril Ramaphosa was elected president in February — received a reality check when the rand plunged on a combination of political risk, poor economic news and waning commodity prices.
This year, the failure to put Eskom on a stable path financially and operationally is possibly the biggest threat to his legacy.
In December, the government promised to solve Eskom's inability to keep the lights on by March, but hopes were dashed by the news that loadshedding would remain a feature for at least the next six months.
By that time, the government will be closer to hosting its second annual investment conference - a project that Ramaphosa kick-started last year and intends to make an annual feature in his quest to attract R1-trillion in new capital into the economy.
Many of the pledges and investment declarations made at last year's inaugural investment summit in Johannesburg - worth close to R300bn - concern mining and manufacturing, which are typically energy-intensive.
Capital Economics, a UK-based economic research consultancy, said this week that persistent electricity problems "will add to headwinds facing the economy" in the first quarter of this year.
In addition, long power supply disruptions may seriously damage the already struggling mining and manufacturing sectors, it said.
Mining contributes 9% to GDP and manufacturing 14%. These sectors, once major pillars of the economy, are haemorrhaging jobs.
Another major contributor to GDP, the retail sector, which has benefited from high consumption, is also seeing a slight slump. Retail figures published this week add to evidence that the economy weakened further in January.
Capital Economics said this points to economic growth slowing in the first month of this year.
With growth falling and business and consumer confidence waning, it seems that the challenges at Eskom may just be the final straw for Ramaphoria...

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