Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Power Shortages: Who's To Blame?

Power shortages are indeed a hot topic in South Africa. I think most of us are somewhat at a loss for words on the matter. There's an unspoken question of: how can we be short of something so basic and so intrinsic to our lives? Electricity is so engrained into our way of living that it comes as something of a shock to the system when you stumble cluelessly around the house at night wondering what to do with yourself.

In my own family, we pulled out a Scrabble board and enjoyed some social time together. Perhaps the loss of electricity helps to restore some of those old time family social circles. But that's besides the point.

What's emerged in the blame-game is that there are three principle administrative elements in this fiasco. Firstly, the apartheid government decommissioned power plants incorrectly, requiring a 5-year plan in order to resurrect these abandoned plants. These 5 years are not bureaucracy as much as simple technical difficulties with regard to restoring individual turbines to use.

Secondly, the new government in 1994 came in with big plans to electrify the rural areas and clearly didn't do their homework. If building new plants takes 10 years, then the ANC government has had 14 years to think about it.

Finally, the brain drain hasn't helped the situation at all. Understandably, less qualified electricians will take longer to carry out plant maintenance, scheduled servicing and requirements analysis.

All the indications point to a sustained period of load shedding, irregular supply and industrial nightmares. Personally, I get the feeling that this matter will be resolved several years down the line and we'll look back with relief that the difficulties have passed.

From an ACDP point of view, we obviously ask ourselves how we might have governed the matter differently. The power crisis is simply a question of administrative excellence. Any good government needs to wake up in the morning and ask themselves: what could possibly go wrong? Foresight and preventive maintenance serve a massive chunk of good administration and seldom can a leader afford to rest on his laurels and assume the job is done. As a Christian party, we endear ourselves to the Biblical challenge: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men" (Colossians 3:23).


Anonymous said...

is the government planning to do anything or just ignore the problem further. Are we loking at a further Zimbabwe situation? Should we be looking to emigrate?

Eric Savage said...

The electricity situation has stabilised - the really bad patch was attributable to two weeks of consistent rain which affected the coal stockpiles, coupled with problems Eskom was having with its coal transporter.

So the worst is over. Trevor Manuel then set aside R60 billion in the 2008 budget for power development.

So we're making progress, but there are no quick fixes to this problem, apart from households and business cutting down on their power consumption.

There is no reason to emigrate because of power concerns.

DISCLAIMER: This blog serves as a commentary and the views presented are not necessary the official views of the ACDP. For official statements and contact details, visit: www.acdp.org.za