We all know it’s time for action instead of endless ANC platitudes about plans in place, endless commissions, and red tape being dismantled, particularly in an area as vital as the supply of energy. Ghaleb Cachalia, of the DA, has suggested the National Police Commissioner immediately assume active operational command of the police operation to stop the continuing acts of intimidation at Eskom – and declare power stations and their immediate surrounding areas security zones. The declaration of a state of disaster around Eskom would allow additional interventions to secure and add to the utility’s generation capacity. Paddi Clay argues that this all sounds completely sensible – but also that it’s highly unlikely President Ramaphosa will risk provoking the ire of the party’s core constituency; the alliance unions and its grateful cadres and donors. So expect more of the same: stage 6 loadshedding during a particularly cold winter, fuel increases and cost of living hikes. – Sandra Laurence
Desperately seeking sunshine
By Paddi Clay*
When things got really tough for ordinary citizens a few weeks ago, when the weather boffins were giving Johannesburg a bone-chilling outlook of at least a week of steady single figure lows with highs that were far from our usual balmy twenty-somethings, and when André de Ruyter had just announced Stage 6 load shedding was upon us, I confess I abandoned you all and fled the country.
Our party of four went north, made a right at Crooks Corner in the Kruger National Park, crossed through the Pafuri, a quiet alternative to the busy Lebombo border post (and our only other choice given the continuing closed status of the Giriyondo border post, (your guess is as good as mine as to why), and entered the “semi-presidential representative democratic republic” of Mozambique (which, like us, is a multiparty state that’s been dominated by a single liberation party since democracy dawned there in 1994).
For a day we jolted and ground our way along the bush track leading to the Limpopo before taking a listing pontoon across the river. On the second day we wound our way on the mostly sandy road via Mabote to reach Vilanculos.
It’s a challenging and long journey to the coast for June holidays. But I can assure you it beats risking trucking mayhem on the N3 to Durban and the rotting municipality of eThekwini. Plus, the locals, if not effusive, are friendlier, more helpful, and more service-oriented.
(Here’s a sample for comparison purposes: when you do make it to a tarmac road, admittedly with some breathtaking pothole patches that vie with the best the Free State has to offer, toll booth cashiers wish you boa viagem (a good journey) after taking your 50 Metacais fee, equivalent to around R10.)
The sunrises over the archipelago of Bazaruto were wondrous. There were no blackouts while we were there, or not so we noticed. An occasional mosquito, falling coconuts and night driving posed the greatest dangers. The Islamist insurgency is still 1 800 kilometres to the north and the violent Renamo splinter group known as the Junta hasn’t been rated a threat since 2020.
But all too soon we were making our way home to Johannesburg: it’s another two-day trip, this time via Xai-Xai, past the kilometres-long lines of trucks on either side of the border post on the N4s of both South Africa and Mozambique, past the Mordor open-coal mining landscape outside Ogies, past the Zama-Zama gunfight badlands on the outskirts of Benoni.
Two weeks is a long time in politics, to misquote an idiom generally attributed to a former British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, (although, according to the Oxford University Press Tumblr site, there was no confirmation from him or apparently from records, of him saying it).
But it would seem, in South Africa, time and politics has stood still. The state appears as inert as it was when we left its domain. The country as lawless.
Rooted to the spot by his Phala Phala-created cement shoes (or ‘Chicago overcoat’ as Mafia bosses termed the technique used prior to flinging your enemy into a nearby harbour or river), and tethered by his dedication to ensuring party unity over the country, President Cyril Ramaphosa has made no apparent move that could endanger his declared priority.
The President is remaining mum when it comes to answering why and how he had millions in foreign currency hidden in his furniture on his cattle breeding ranch, how it was stolen from his presumably securely guarded country home or why he is, apparently, running a conflict-of-interest side hustle while President and thumbing his nose at SARS regulations.
He has done nothing to stop the SAPS from shirking its responsibilities to take on criminals and saboteurs whoever and wherever they may be, never mind the impact of their untrammelled activities on the population in general and the country as a whole.
There is no indication that the saboteur strikers and agitators who have firebombed and continue to attack other Eskom workers and bring us to the brink of total power collapse are being brought to book, despite the formidable powers of the Keypoints Act, happily inherited as is by the ANC government from the National Party. In fact, government’s only intervention has been to instruct Eskom to move to a wage offer of 7% and to end the strike whatever it costs.
Bad old days
It does strike me, as I reflect on the bad old days when Keypoint legislation bugged our journalistic reporting efforts, that under an ANC government, forces which appear to be aligned to one or other faction of the ANC or the labour alliance are proving far more effective at terrorism and bringing the country to its knees than the MK armed wing in its supposed ‘heyday’.
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan may be applauded for his call to dump the red tape that is inhibiting power production and our struggle against load-shedding. But as Gabriel Crouse of the Institute of Race Relations has said, those ‘bold words’ from a government minister need to be put into action and the red tape that’s scrapped at Eskom should definitely include ‘the reddest tape of all’, the race law.
Ghaleb Cachalia, of the Democratic Alliance, has suggested the National Police Commissioner immediately assume active operational command of the SAPS operation to stop the continuing acts of intimidation at Eskom. And that move to be followed by the declaration of power stations and their immediate surrounding areas as security zones, and the subsequent declaration of a state of disaster around Eskom that would allow additional interventions to secure and add to the utility’s generation capacity.
All this sounds almost immediately doable and sensible and in the country’s interests, to me and my cohort. But that’s almost the same as saying it’s highly unlikely Ramaphosa or any cabinet minister will risk provoking the ire of the party’s core constituency; the alliance unions and its grateful cadres and donors.
Ramaphosa has also done nothing much to secure the vital, national trucking supply chains we depend on now that our railways no longer serve their intended purpose for either commuters or the economy, thanks to Fikile Mbalula and his useless predecessors.
Some persistent Pollyannas have dredged up hope from the final state capture and cadre deployment pronouncements of Judge Raymond Zondo (all hail to him). But his mighty, forthright report, while it supplied detail and testimony, has not really told us anything we who are not blinded by obsessive loyalty to the ANC and its tattered and besmirched liberation credentials, didn’t already know, realize, intuit or deduce during the 42 months of the commission’s life and work.
We do not yet know if all this work will even translate into effective legal action against all those big fish and minnows implicated in this sordid, sorry tale of state-enabled corruption.
If you are searching for a sign of political action to reduce our woes or a glimmer of hope for the future, you may be fortified by the knowledge that the official opposition is currently seeking, through the courts, to end the wrecking ball reign of cadre deployment and the party committee overseeing it. Terence Corrigan of the Daily Friend writes that the DA wants cadre deployment and the committee behind it to be declared unconstitutional and therefore unlawful.
Others, still desperately seeking a sliver of a bright side to current life in South Africa and an indication of competence in those who govern us, have pointed to the lifting of the mask mandate and other Covid-19 restrictions as evidence of the government’s reasonableness and ability to change. But that’s truly clutching at straws. It was a long overdue action and the charade could no longer be sustained with a straight face.
Forget about this being ‘the winter of our discontent’. It is rapidly morphing into our season of despair. The only significant action we are likely to see from the fading dominant party is a determined bid to get back control of the sites of power, patronage and revenue generation it has lost across the country.
Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t be preferable to be the citizen of a developing country struggling with debt but still with some hope after decades of war, rather than a citizen of a country where the state, through its ineptness, greed, and fixation on an out-of-date ideology destroyed what it had in hand at its inception, repeated one of the worst mistakes of its racist predecessors, and now appears to be simply standing by while lawlessness spreads to every corner.
There I’ve gone and done it. I’ve fallen in line with my peer group (in age at least) of curmudgeonly digital columnists, Messrs Gordin, Bullard, Saunderson-Meyer, and Donaldson. We are, as they assert in their various brutal, manly, sharp-witted and clear-eyed ways, stuffed.
So much for the ray of sunshine I aimed to conjure up after my refreshing sojourn away from this taxing country. Maybe next month?
- Paddi Clay spent 40 years in journalism, as a reporter and consultant, manager, editor and trainer in radio, print and online. She was a correspondent for foreign networks during the 80s and 90s and, more recently, a judge on the Alan Paton Book Awards. She has an MA in Digital Journalism Leadership and received the Vodacom National Columnist award in 2007. Now retired she feels she has earned the right to indulge in her hobbies of politics, history, the arts, popular culture and good food. She values curiosity, humour, and freedom of speech, opinion and choice.
- The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR. If you like what you have just read, support the Daily Friend.
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