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Date: 2024-05-21 Page is: DBtxt001.php txt00023318

Our President Has Lost His Marbles ... When I heard the plan to resolve our electricity crisis, I thought it was April Fool’s Day, but it’s July

You’re kidding,right? (Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay)

Original article:
Peter Burgess COMMENTARY

Peter Burgess
Our President Has Lost His Marbles

When I heard the plan to resolve our electricity crisis, I thought it was April Fool’s Day, but it’s July

Written by Caroline de Braganza

Jul 17th 2022

If you follow my stories, you’ll know of my recent gripes about four weeks of rolling power blackouts in South Africa.

We have to schedule our activities around when the power is up and when it is down. Reminds me of that verse from the nursery rhyme, The Grand Old Duke of York,

And when they were up, they were up,
And when they were down, they were down,
And when they were only halfway up,
They were neither up nor down.

I hesitate to bore you with the gory details, but you need context to understand why the president’s proposal, backed by his fossilized Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy (of which he possesses a huge shortage) could be a Greek tragi-comedy.

Before I reveal the proposed solution to the power crisis, let me share a brief history of our State Owned Enterprise (SOE) Eskom, the sole provider of electricity in South Africa.

For 85 years, Eskom was one of the best utilities in the world.

In 1998, analysts and leaders at Eskom and in the ANC-led South African government predicted that Eskom would run out of electrical power reserves by 2007 unless action they took action to prevent it.

In 2008, the country experienced load-shedding for the first time and 14 years later, the frequency of rolling power blackouts has increased.

What does that say?

Politics got in the way.

In the 1990's, the massive electrification efforts in townships increased the ANC’s popularity. This made electricity subject to political forces. The ruling party established a national regulator (NERSA) to control prices with below-inflation increases, fearing the political consequences of upsetting their supporters with excessive tariffs.

The Thabo Mbeki led-government at the time was under pressure to part-privatize Eskom — and bidders were lining up to invest. Under pressure from his left-wing, and the influence of Communist Party members of the cabinet, Mbeki backed off.

The coal-fired power plants of the 60's and 70's were getting past their prime, and the government opted to go the China route where the state takes on large projects for the benefit of all.

Instead of involving the private sector, they instructed Eskom to go it alone and commission two huge coal-fired power plants — the now notorious Medupi and Kusile plants.

Notorious because costs exploded.

Project management was poor, corruption and negligence were rife, and the design process was flawed. One of the founding contracts went to the ANC’s then corporate guise, Chancellor House. All kinds of BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) requirements were placed on the project, making it more difficult and more expensive. And the companies involved did shoddy work.

Construction of Medupi and Kusile began in 2007, and the plan was for the power stations to be completed in 2014. However, neither met their deadline.

The cost overrun to date is $18.2-billion.

An explosion occurred at Unit 4 of Medupi in August last year because technicians did not follow the proper procedures on maintenance.

Energy expert Chris Yelland said that Medupi was nowhere close to being fully operational, despite an announcement the previous week that its 14-year construction was complete.

“There’s a lot of work to be done, fixing design faults and execution faults. It will take another two years or more. And then there’s still the gas desulfurisation plant, which is going to only be ready by about 2030. The plant is a long way from complete.”

The design correction to the milling plant at Kusile is only due for completion after December 2027!

In his weekly From the desk of the president newsletter, on Monday 11 July, Ramaphosa said he has been working with the relevant ministers and senior officials on a range of additional measures to speed up efforts to increase the country’s electricity supply.

“The message is clear: this is no time for business as usual. We need to act boldly to make load-shedding a thing of the past.”

Blah! Blah! Blah!

He intimated that in the coming days the government will announce a comprehensive set of actions to achieve much faster progress in tackling load-shedding.

We plebs were skeptical as “coming days” could mean this year, next year, some time, never. We also know from bitter experience that the ruling party never walks the talk unless it lines their pockets.

What is the proposal to address our power crisis?

Wait for it.

Drum roll.

President Ramaphosa announced this week in his address at the SA Communist Party conference that they will introduce another state-owned power utility to compete with Eskom. Our illustrious Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, suggested this to him and he thinks it’s a good idea.

This quote by Albert Einstein came immediately to mind:
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
The president further said that competition could also help lower electricity prices??? Let’s remember they created the National Regulator to control prices.

Oh, and he says they do this in China — state-owned electricity generating companies compete among themselves to bring prices down.

How did he become a billionaire with such retarded thinking?

Private sector businesses compete through efficiency and effectiveness and employ people qualified to carry out their duties and responsibilities. Companies do not tolerate poor performance.

In China, party loyalty comes first if you wish the state to employ you. The ANC is no different, except they forget this is a democracy and loyalty should be to the country first, ANC second.

Now here’s where China and South Africa part ways.
  • You won’t get the job in China if you do not possess the qualifications — not applicable here.
  • In China, if your performance is not up to standard, they fire you — not applicable here.
  • If you are guilty of corruption in China, they fire you, you face trial and receive a jail sentence — not applicable here.
  • For extremely serious corruption cases, China allows the death penalty — not applicable here only because our constitution abolished the death penalty.
  • Under Zuma’s presidency (2009–2018), corruption reached pandemic levels.
Eskom was not the only SEO infected with this disease. Incompetent managers and board members whose only credentials were blind loyalty to the ANC, crippled Eskom and other SOEs. Many private sector construction companies also had their hands in the cookie jar.

Our current president gave us hope in his early tenure that he would stamp out corruption. We were floating in Ramaphoria, dreaming of a prosperous future and thriving economy.

Nothing has changed.

State-owned enterprises have failed miserably through mismanagement, corruption, high operating costs and elevated debt servicing costs.
  • Our transport rail network is defunct (TransNet), resulting in our roads deteriorating from the high volume of trucks transporting goods.
  • Passenger rail services (PRASA) are unreliable or inoperative in areas.
  • The South African Post Office (SAPO) is technically insolvent.
  • Denel — our former successful arms manufacturer — has not paid staff salaries for two years.
I could list all 700 SOE’s, not one of which is flourishing.

The total debt burden currently stands at $43.2-billion.

Eskom urgently requires a minimum of 6000 MW additional power to enable it to conduct in-depth maintenance of various plants.

Independent power providers (IPP’s) are ready and willing to implement their own capital projects of renewable energy, but red tape and regulations stand in the way.

Or should I say, our oil, coal and gas loving minister Gwede Mantashe is blocking progress. (BTW Mantashe is also chairperson of the ANC–so you can see why it would be difficult to fire him for his incompetence.)

More than enough common sense information here to see why a second state-owned power utility to compete with Eskom is an absurd idea.

The ANC is bent on creating Another National Crisis.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” - Albert Einstein.


I leave you with a little laughter to lighten the darkness.

Thank you for being here.

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