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Load shedding – 14 years and still going with no end in sight


Eskom doesn’t get it. It’s not rocket science, writes Kevin Ritchie.

Opinion: Kevin Ritchie

WHEN load shedding first began in this country, Flo Rida’s Low was the biggest song in the world. The first Twilight film was still a year from being released, actor Heath Ledger was still alive, Julius Malema was still head of the ANC Youth League and the Parlotones’ third album was going to platinum.

It took Good Hope FM’s Dan Corder to remind us of this on Monday. It’s amazing that load shedding, the South African euphemism for rolling power cuts, has been with us since late 2007 – almost 14 years.

We’ve put up with all the excuses: wet coal, Gupta coal, technicians dropping spanners in nuclear reactors, sabotage, and state capture, to explain why we don’t have a stable power grid – even though we’ve paid several times over to build two of the biggest coal fired power plants on the continent, at a time when everyone else in the world is moving to renewable energy.

They’re looking to a future where air will be safe to breathe and the water clean to drink. Here at home, Kusile and Medupi still aren’t finished. And we’ve still got load shedding despite President Cyril Ramaphosa’s perpetual promises that we will get over it.

And we almost did get over ourselves, until last weekend – when the powers-that-be at Eskom thought it would be a great idea to issue helpful tips on making the most of the latest load shedding or “the electrical downtime”.

It was, said academic Jonathan Janssen, like an abuser telling his victim how to parry his blows. Others were less circumspect, calling on the utility to do their jobs properly and stamp out the rampant inefficiency and corruption that got us here. Stefan Erasmus (@thestefactor) wrote: “That’s like the car thief saying ‘Here are 4 things to do once your car gets stolen’.”

You have to laugh. The only other alternatives are to get really angry – or weep. We’re in lockdown because of the worst public health crisis in living memory. Many people have to work from home. Those with children have to do that and home school them too. You can’t do either without power to run your laptops and your wi-fi. Cellphone towers don’t work too well either because the batteries have been stolen.

Eskom doesn’t get it. It’s not rocket science. No one wants tips to deal with this, they just want power when they flick a switch. Even more so when they’re actually paying for it.

Gaslighting is defined as psychological abuse designed to make the targeted person feel as if they’re the one at fault, by making them question their reality. It’s become a South African phenomenon with the worst culprits being the government, the municipalities and the SOEs.

On Monday, when the power was restored across the country, we were told not to drop our guard, because the system remained “vulnerable and unpredictable”. Eskom could have been talking about us, not to us. Those who can afford to are actually opting for gas, solar and anything else.

Soon Eskom will feel the real effect of gaslighting – literally.

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