An entire generation in South Africa is growing up never having known a life without load shedding

We aren’t allowed to call load shedding blackouts anymore, Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter told us this week. He’s become particularly exasperated by our exasperation.

Well, tough shit. Try living with no power, or rather, the promise of power which was snatched away at the last moment. Alfred Lord Tennyson famously wrote ‘tis better to have loved and lost, than never loved at all”. London was only electrified about 25 years after he penned “In Memoriam AHH”, so he probably wrote it by candlelight. 

It’s doubtful he would ever have written something like that about Eskom. Here in South Africa, an entire generation is growing up never having known a life without load shedding. That’s right, we’re now in our 14th year of rolling blackouts, which De Ruyter wants us to call load shedding, for without it we’d be really up shit creek without a paddle, apparently. 

Well tell that to the matrics trying to study for their final high school exams. Tell that to the people who’ve been told to work from home but now can’t because the WiFi doesn’t work because the batteries in the cell phone masts don’t get enough time to be charged. Tell that to people, who do have jobs, stuck at intersections because the lights aren’t working, but end up arriving late or missing crucial appointments.

And please stop apologising. Eskom is starting to sound like our perpetually shocked president when he was campaigning recently. We know the problems at Eskom; the tenderpreneurs; the incompetence; the corruption; the sabotage; the dropped bolts in reactors, conveyor belts that can’t take coal to the plants without electricity from the plants themselves; the kak coal; and, the wet coal. 

What we need is for the problem to get fixed – and that doesn’t mean just doubling down on monstrous coal fired generators, but rather throwing the door open for entrepreneurs to go green, create jobs and start pumping alternative energy into the grid, whether its solar or wind. We don’t need horrid Turkish power ships microwaving our marine life for the next 25 years – or any other hare-brained emergency schemes that end up like the government PPE debacle.

There’s only one thing worse than De Ruyter wringing his hands and rending his hair about this old car needing to get replaced, not fixed: It’s having the kleptocrats that got us into this mess, by driving the old skedonk into the red without even an oil change, before pawning our birth right for their mess of potage, gaslight us (pun intended).

To mangle Winston Churchill, never in the field of human endeavour has so much been owed by so few to so many. They don’t like being called out as crooks. De Ruyter doesn’t like load shedding being called blackouts. Maybe to spare his angst we should call it ‘previously lit areas’? It’s an old joke, but these rolling blackouts are seriously getting old too.

In the meantime, the forecast for next week is mostly sunny, with occasional electricity and a chance of WiFi.

Originally published by the Saturday Star on 13 November 2021.