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January 26, 2008

You know things are going wrong when ....

As I told you yesterday, my brother and a raft of friends live in South Africa, a country which, until recently, seemed to have everything its people needed (and some things they didn't!). Electricity, water, mineral wealth, crime, corruption good education, work opportunities and farms that could, properly managed, supply enough to feed themselves. Slowly all that is falling apart. Food production has gone up, but not enough since the borders seem to have been thrown open and floods of migrants have arrived. Jobs to have become scarcer - due in part to employment laws that are ridiculously biased and almost a neo-apartheid system - crime has soared, (My brother was recently at home when someone tried to break in through his living room windows with him sat in the room!) - and the mineral wealth seems to be either remaining unexploited or the proceeds are being siphoned off to someone's bank account.

The recent election by the ANC rank and file of Jacob Zuma as "President in Waiting" (Forget democracy here, just as in the bad old days of Apartheid and the National Party, the ANC now has the sort of voter clout that means no serious opposition can ever unseat them) is a serious blow to confidence. It is only his political clout that has prevented him from being convicted as a rapist, as a serial fraudster and on a string of corruption charges. Interestingly all his cronies have been convicted and sit in jail while he remains free and will no doubt pardon them as soon as he is crowned President for life .....

The latest problem to beset the suffering people of SA is "load shedding". Technical term (Like the infamous British Rail "Wrong Kind of Snow") which means "Power Cut". Now I would guess that this doesn't actually lie at the door of the present government, but rather at the door of the last apartheid regime. It was they who, in their infinite arrogance, decided that the network of "local" power generating stations then in existence, should be closed down and all power generated in a few "Mega" Stations located at or near the coalfields. It sounded like a good idea at the time, especially as they "sold" the idea on the back of "mothballing" the smaller stations for re-activation when demand rose .....

The problem is that it takes several weeks at least to restart a RECENTLY mothballed station. One that has been idle for years takes months to bring back to life, possibly even years. And it costs big money to do it as well. Even in an active station, starting a generator set and bringing it online takes a minimum of an hour, which is why most stations have routines for meeting peak load periods by anticipating the demand periods and "running up" the turbines in readiness. Well, ESKOM (An acronym for Electricity Supply Commission - in Afrikaans "Kommissie") has now reached its capacity. This has been coming for some time, but the present government has been giving away the spare capacity to Mozambique and Zimbabwe among others, and has not been prepared to spend money re-activating the old stations. So now the country has run out of power. Those who don't use it are fine, so the rural areas where the open fire, LPG or paraffin stove and lamps are used have no problems. But the towns and cities are subjected to "load shedding" without warning.

Lots of promises are being made - but where's the money coming from?

Madam and Eve have been summing it up extremely well!

Posted by The Gray Monk at January 26, 2008 10:24 AM

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I particularly liked yesterday's one: http://www.madamandeve.co.za/weekend_cartoon.php

Posted by: Postulant at February 2, 2008 09:48 PM