Understandably, in a time of crisis someone has to carry the blame. And when the crisis takes on national proportions and the lights go out across South Africa, those at the top become the targets of citizens’ anger.
It seems everyone is searching for a scapegoat, even though President Thabo Mbeki has admitted his government is to blame for not heeding the calls of power utility Eskom. But who, exactly, is to blame? Mbeki himself? The efforts of others to get answers from the president about, say, the arms deal have been fruitless.
Perhaps there should be an investigation into the matter — who said what, and when — but this will likely drag on for years and only reach resolution when members of the next Cabinet are taking their seats. The African National Congress’s hollow election promise of a “better life for all” now rings decidedly hollow as our government, it turns out, is not accountable to anybody.
Especially in the past week, calls have come from opposition political parties and business people for the heads of senior Cabinet figures such as Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (as she was formerly in charge of minerals and energy) and Minister of Public Enterprises Alec Erwin — not to mention the entire top management of electricity supplier Eskom.
Thought Leader blogger Ivo Vegter wrote a passionate plea for these officials to be sacked. “It is true that their replacements may be equally useless, but by keeping the incumbents, the chance of their being misguided, incompetent or corrupt is 100%,” he also said in response to our Talkback question of the week — “How would it help resolve the power crisis if ministers were fired?”
While showing these officials the door would certainly make South Africans feel better and send a message that incompetence won’t be tolerated in the government, it won’t prevent businesses standing dark, restaurants serving cold sandwiches and traffic snarl-ups of monstrous proportions. Some Thought Leader commentators have argued that we should leave the blame game for now and focus on ending the crisis first.
Perhaps it’s better to make them sort out the mess first and then decide on punitive measures, rather than throwing their replacements into the deep end. But, of course, new brooms do sweep clean …
Meanwhile, Minerals and Energy Minister Buyelwa Sonjica should be run out of town for her comments on how to save electricity. “Go to sleep earlier so that you can grow and be cleverer. Boil less water; use the microwave rather than the stove; take a shower and not a shallow bath,” suggested the honourable minister this week.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s 5pm and past my bedtime.
2. It’s no joke, says Eskom
Psst! Heard the one about Eskom? Spare a thought for the electricity supplier. Anyone with access to email in South Africa over the past few weeks has probably received at least a few of the slew of Eskom-related jokes doing the rounds.
3. Was Scorpions sleuth set up?
The police version of events surrounding the arrest of Scorpions investigator Ivor Powell appears increasingly questionable, as evidence mounts suggesting a planned operation against him, and of links to the wider battle over the future of the unit.
4. Soapie star’s comments anger ANC
The African National Congress (ANC) has lashed out at a popular soap opera actress for claiming the ANC murders its opponents, and is planning legal action against her.
5. Govt outlines plans for power crisis
Switch off your lights is what the government is urging South Africans to do to immediately address what it calls a “national electricity emergency”.
6. Energy crisis? What energy crisis?
South Africa has plenty of energy available. The problem is, we don’t have enough power. Some of the country’s biggest businesses have been queuing up to sell power to Eskom. The potential power on the table — all 5 000MW of it — is almost equivalent to two Koeberg-sized nuclear power stations.
7. Zuma says US, Europe hampering mediation in Zim
Jacob Zuma said on Thursday that United States and European interference was hindering efforts to reconcile Zimbabwe’s opposition with President Robert Mugabe’s government.
8. Zuma’s charm offensive in Davos
Jacob Zuma, who survived rape and corruption charges to become the president-in-waiting, has harsh words for Kenya and Nigeria, where recent elections were marred by alleged fraud, violence and disputed results.
9. Returning to Zimbabwe, life looks tougher for most
As I drove from the border with South Africa to my home town I recalled the refrain Zimbabweans use when pondering the economic meltdown in their country: “surely things cannot get any worse than they are”.
10. Skielik: ‘There is no trust in the world’
About 600 mourners, officials, politicians and family members gathered at a memorial service held for the victims of the Skielik shootings just outside Swartruggens on Thursday afternoon.