/ 15 November 2007

Dark times ahead

Picture it: Johannesburg, 2010. It’s the final of the World Cup, and Bafana Bafana are playing England. Soccer City is brightly lit: massive floodlights tower into the night, big screens flash advertisements, loudspeakers play African anthems. Look beyond the car parks and the crowds, though, and the horizon is black; several nearby suburbs had to give up their electricity to let the soccer extravaganza run its course.

Embarrassing? Quite. Unlikely? Perhaps not. Despite previous assurances by Eskom that there will be enough electricity to go round come 2010, this week many South Africans again sat in their dark, silent homes as another round of load shedding kicked in. It was due to “unplanned outages” at power stations and “equipment repairs”, Eskom said.

The electricity provider then announced, frighteningly, that load shedding is here to stay. For the next five to seven years, which very much includes the World Cup.

There is no doubt that we are having an electricity crisis, and Eskom did also list several ideas on which it is working to ameliorate this sorry state of affairs — for example, new power plants, nuclear energy and importing power from elsewhere in Africa.

We can only hope that Eskom’s planning allows enough time to implement and test the most promising of these ideas before 2010 — and that it takes into account that, by their nature, there will always be “unplanned outages”, and such events should not affect South African infrastructure in such a serious fashion.

Kingsley Holgate
The bearded South African adventurer is travelling through Africa to combat malaria by distributing mosquito nets where they are needed most — and getting local kids reading (and drawing) through a regular newsletter about his exploits that is distributed to schools. Well done on both counts.
Gert van Rooyen
One of South Africa’s most notorious paedophiles may be dead, but his victims remain missing. This week, bones were found on the property next to where the Van Rooyen home in Pretoria used to be. If tests show these to belong to one or more of his victims, perhaps their families can finally find closure.

Most-read stories
November 8 to 14

1. ‘Mbeki killed BAE bribery inquiry’
President Thabo Mbeki was involved in the African National Congress (ANC) leadership’s blocking of a parliamentary investigation into alleged bribery by BAE Systems and other weapons firms in South Africa’s biggest arms deal to date, according to a former MP who was driven out of the ANC for spearheading the inquiry.

2. Mbeki’s dream team
If President Thabo Mbeki remains ANC president and therefore has the power to appoint his own successor, South Africa after 2009 will be run by his two most-trusted lieutenants, Minister of Foreign Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and government’s head of policy-making, Joel Netshitenzhe.

3. Will NPA dare to charge Zuma?
The National Prosecuting Authority’s victory in its fight for the right to use evidence gathered in raids against Jacob Zuma and his associates has cleared the way for Zuma to be recharged before the African National Congress’s December conference.

4. More arms-deal revelations
Two of the key figures in the genesis of the arms-deal scandal — Patricia de Lille and Andrew Feinstein — went public again this week, fanning the embers of a corruption storm that has been smouldering for nine years.

5. ‘They took off and left the engine behind’
A Nationwide Boeing 737 had to make an emergency landing at Cape Town International Airport on Wednesday afternoon when an engine fell off during take-off.

6. Officials ‘siphoned off’ farmers’ billions
Top Land Bank officials have siphoned off more than R2-billion — meant for farmers — to fund their close friends’ and associates’ ventures, the Sunday Times reported.

7. My father the ‘sex pest’
A few weeks ago, the woman who had falsely accused my father, Mavuso ­Msimang, of sexually harassing her almost two years ago withdrew her case against him. It was a hollow victory.

8. Nationwide Boeing engine ‘sucked in object’
The engine that dropped off Nationwide flight CE723 had sucked in “an object” as the plane was taking off, the airline said on Thursday.

9. Hoax email man shot in Pretoria
IT specialist Muziwendoda Kunene — one of the men allegedly behind the hoax email saga — was shot in Pretoria on Wednesday.

10. ‘Shut up!’ Spanish king tells Chávez
When Hugo Chávez is in full flow, politicians and diplomats know better than to try and cut him dead. But not kings. As the Venezuelan president was in mid-harangue, excoriating his “fascist” foes at a summit of leaders from the Latin world, Juan Carlos, the Spanish monarch, could take no more.