Eskom and the unseen spider web

Opinionista  Steven Boykey Sidley  15 February 2019 

Eskom and the unseen spider web

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As I sit here in darkness again, trapped in the purgatory between outrage and resignation, an emergent fact about Eskom becomes evident.

It is less that some odious mixture of incompetence and corruption has brought us back to this point. It is a growing realisation that Eskom’s tottering walls cannot be fixed, at least not for the next 10 years or more. Not even if an endless supply of cheap capital suddenly appeared, and not even if the entire cadre (a word I use with intent) of incompetents and crooks still holing up in plush offices was magically and instantly replaced by the best of the best.

First, let’s dispense with the whole “sabotage/dirty” tricks narrative. This is a Trumpian deflection by those who would wish the spotlight to be pulled off Eskom and their current ANC masters. 

It is simple. Just say it – “power stations are being sabotaged”. Presumably by Machiavellian forces of darkness seeking to embarrass and ruin a sitting government. The Zuma faction or the EFF or WMC or the unions. It really doesn’t matter. One does not need facts to support this. Just say it, and a goodly number of excited journalists will be off on a tear in search of a conspiracy that does not exist and the public’s hot anger at Eskom will be diluted as their attention moves elsewhere for blame.

Weve seen it before, folks. Conspiracies are fun, it’s a cheap and easy trick, evidence not required. They have the excellent advantage of dissolving the need for self-examination, never a strong point with the ruling party. 

And it is only partially instructive to look back at big mistakes. The first rolling blackouts happened 10 years ago. Excuses were given (even though the government was warned by Eskom engineers in the late Nineties that upgrades had to be done). Promises were made, appointments were made, budgets were drawn up. But the infrastructure continued to crumble and the lights were kept on by diesel supplements, contributing (along with fraud) to an unsustainable and unrepayable R400-billion debt. The financial poobahs call this kicking the can down the road.

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