Opinion

Our dark hour calls forth not leaders but the opportunistic snake-oil salesmen who oversaw Eskom's degeneration

24 March 2019 - 00:04


It is interesting to observe how nations respond to the crises that beset them. The Brexit debacle has made the British almost despise themselves for the sheer clumsiness of the process. They hate that the great colonial power has been knocked off its perch and that their future is uncertain - through their own doing.
The US is a divided nation. There are those who defend and support Donald Trump no matter what he does, while the other half of the country rebels against his crassness and self-obsession.
There are crucial issues at stake while the country does battle with itself, including immigration, women's rights, gun control and race relations.
It is safe to say that the great American dream is now in tatters.
Last week's massacre in New Zealand, in which a white supremacist killed 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch, stunned the country ranked the second safest in the world after Iceland.
The reaction there has been profound. "This isn't New Zealand" is the national refrain.
People acted immediately to support the survivors, victims' families and Muslim communities. There have been vigils around the country, schoolchildren performed the traditional Maori haka to honour the dead, and street gangs sent their members to mosques to protect people during prayer time.
The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, led her nation in mourning while simultaneously co-ordinating government efforts to overhaul New Zealand's gun laws. In five days, the coalition government formulated a ban on semi-automatic weapons.
The call to prayer was broadcast nationwide on Friday and Ardern was among thousands of people who packed a public park for the midday prayer. When she visited the bereaved families after the shootings, Ardern wore a black headscarf. Since then, non-Muslim women have been wearing headscarves in solidarity.
SA prides itself on being a resilient nation.
We are putting up with rolling electricity blackouts without demanding that those who caused the Eskom crisis be held to account. We are heading into the winter months with no game plan for survival after being told that the power crisis could last at least six months.
Our sense of humour has been carrying us through the various stages of load-shedding. Someone commented on Twitter that stage 10 of load-shedding will be when Eskom "takes the light at the end of the tunnel".
It is not altogether untrue. The effects of the electricity crisis could be dire - water cuts, communications outages, further slowing of the economy, disinvestment and job losses.
Hopes of a turnaround after the elections are illogical. There is no government, no matter who is running it, that can deliver on its election promises and improve prospects unless the situation at Eskom is stabilised.
Nobody can wave a magic wand to undo the lack of maintenance on power plants, to replenish the coal and diesel supplies, and ensure optimum dam storage levels at hydro plants.
We will remain vulnerable irrespective of who is in charge.
There seems to be little appreciation of how close to the edge we are.
South Africans have been burdened with a VAT increase, higher fuel and food prices and rising electricity tariffs. Prolonged blackouts, work stoppages and traffic snarl-ups are now part of daily life.
We must contend with the impact of the power crisis on hospitals, crime levels, the education system and food safety.
Small and medium businesses across the country are feeling the pressure and will have to lay off people or shut down.
All this can build up into social instability. We have seen previously how people's frustrations manifest in violent protests and xenophobic attacks.
Yet in this time of crisis, there is no national response to rally the nation.
People are told to be patient and that the problems at Eskom are being attended to, but there no national strategy to help the nation cope and pull us back from the brink.
Those who are well-off can seek alternative means to get by, such as generators, batteries and other light sources, but what about the rest of the country?
In the leadership vacuum, snake-oil salesmen are opining how the nuclear build programme and their continued leadership of Eskom and the country could have staved off the crisis.
Our nation is so tolerant that, despite these people being directly responsible for bringing Eskom to its knees and handing the country over to the Guptas, we still allow them to direct the national discourse and treat us like fools.
The reason people like former president Jacob Zuma and former Eskom bosses Brian Molefe and Matshela Koko are lamenting the nuclear deal is not because of load-shedding but because they missed out on a cut of the over R1-trillion that was to be spent.
In this time of darkness, we need someone to show us the light at the end of the tunnel, not collaborators in state capture to justify their failed attempt to loot from us even more than they did.

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