Eskom has monopolised the art of the public apology and patented the word “unfortunately”

Load shedding is serious. We know this because Cyril the Meek told us so this week. The President cut short his lightning quick trip to the US to probably charge his cell phone as he was quietly shat on by the White House for prevaricating on Ukraine, followed by a whistle stop tour past the Buckingham Palace curio shop to get the latest edition of the Windsor tea towels.

When he got home, he told us he and his administration “will remain seized with this issue until the situation is resolved”. It’s good to hear. The economy has seized: Businesses that have generators are going bankrupt trying to run them and those without are going bankrupt sitting on their thumbs in the dark.

It’s not what he meant, obviously, although it’s difficult to know what he means because he’s been making promises about ending load shedding for a while now, which the RET-istas (the people who actually looted the utility) keep reminding him about. In 2019, he promised it would all be over if we could hold out for 18 months. But the government is working on it, so there’s that. Meanwhile Eskom has monopolised the art of the public apology and patented the word ‘unfortunately’.

None of this though stops the finger pointing on the cesspits of social media. The suburban WhatsApp groups seethe, posting comparisons of load shedding schedules in the suburbs where they live with those in townships invariably accompanied by the snide: ‘and they don’t even pay’ (sic). The solution to that one’s obvious, no one’s stopping them from moving there if they think it’s (a) so unfair and (b) so lekker in Soweto.

The other solution that’s less obvious is to start holding municipalities to account. No one’s doing it, yet it is the individual municipalities themselves who decide who gets cut and when. In this brave new 4th industrial revolution world of smart technology (even if we have to light candles to see the buttons), surely the municipalities can isolate the homes but not the street lights and the robots; the homes during the day but not the schools and the hospitals? After all they can keep the homes of cabinet ministers burning throughout. 

And if they can’t get it right to go digital, surely they can go analogue? They can get their traffic cops off their arses out of their cars and onto intersections directing traffic? And, if there aren’t enough officers, actually create partnerships with more businesses than just Outsurance to appoint pointsmen to give those who have jobs a chance to get to them and then get home in the evening.

In Johannesburg, it’s been left to the indigent, the vagrants and the beggars to see us through. It’s the truest picture of all. It’s even more terrifying than the prospect of interminable rolling blackouts because it shows us that those who could make a difference haven’t got a clue. 

They’re certainly not seized by the crisis unlike those of us seized in traffic jams, dark homes and silent factories.

Originally published by the Saturday Star on 23 September 2022.