Do we have the skills to cope in the pre-industrial age?

Load shedding has got so bad, the cops are too scared to go out on patrol at night apparently according to the South African Police Union. Apparently, they don’t have the right kit – like torches. It’s amazing. Yet another cross for ‘General’ Bheki Cele, our police minister to bear. 

It hasn’t been a great week for him; he was shown up so badly at a community meeting in Cape Town this week that he had no option but to play the race card in a spectacular tirade that set social media alight. 

But enough about the Twat in the Hat, what the latest alleged police inadequacy does shine a light on (pun intended) is the broader malaise of load shedding. Do any of us have the right equipment? Not solar panels or petrol generators (even though far fewer can afford to run them after the latest ruinous petrol price increases this week), but basic kit?

The average pedestrian certainly doesn’t. They flit like wraiths in the dark, without a reflective piece of clothing from top to bottom on arterial routes the length and breadth of Joburg that are now in pitch dark. We’re used to street lights that don’t work and we coped because of the ambient light from shop fronts, but now everything is pitch black. By the time a driver sees a pedestrian – if they’ve successfully managed to dodge the pot holes, and unfilled pits left by Joburg Water attending to burst pipes – it will be far too late.

Do drivers even care? Behaviour at intersections when the robots aren’t functioning, irrespective of night or day, is becoming progressively worse. The JMPD is a just a sad joke, nowhere to be seen unless it’s hitting the monthly revenue budgets with wolf pack fine operations. In the absence of law enforcement, drivers are becoming increasingly feral, opting to ape taxi drivers and use the emergency lanes to try to steal an extra 50 metres in the congestion.

Do we even have the skills to cope in the pre-industrial age we’ve been plunged into? Do we remember to snuff out the candles before we sleep and douse the lanterns? Do we keep windows open lest we asphyxiate ourselves? We are so busy preparing for the fourth industrial revolution, we’ve lost sight of the way things were done in the second. 

With no end in sight to load shedding, as Eskom sinks ever deeper into the morass, perhaps our schools need to shift the curriculum, particularly life orientation, back to the olden days. It’s not going to get any better. Eskom might have given the unions a sweetheart deal to stop sabotaging their workplace, but now thieves are making hay while the power is cut, stripping cables off the overhead lines in the suburbs, so even if there is power the consumers can’t get it.

There’s no urgency though among our leaders. They need to feel our pain for a change. They all need to be load shed in their ministerial compounds for a start. 

After 2024, we might even be able to shed them permanently.

Originally published by The Saturday Star on 8 July 2022.