CR’s show hardly electrifying




It’s nearly kick-off time in the Atlético Madrid’s Champions League fixture against Lokomotiv Moscow. Diego Simeone’s side have been battling in the Spanish league this season, so this is a big game for them. And for me.

Not that I’ll be watching it. There is electricity, but my DStv is dead, an early victim of the first wave of load-shedding that hit us over the weekend.

It’s been hammering with rain since Monday, when I managed to get hold of Ace, the cat who normally sorts the satellite dish out. By the time he got here, the power was off and the rain had started for real.

Ace headed home and won’t be back till the rain stops and the power supply stabilises. I don’t blame the man. The rain has been intense, getting heavier as the days go on. I wouldn’t want to be four storeys up, all cables and slippery painted roof, in the middle of a flood with an on-off-on-off electricity supply either.

Like Ace and the rest of South Africa, I’ve spent the last couple of days battling with Eskom’s latest collapse, the rapid escalation from stage2 to stage6 that forced the head of state to cut short his trip up north and come home.

It’s been rough. It’s difficult enough to cover events all over the country from Durban at the best of times, trying to catch them during lunch or between meetings, or in the evening. With no phone, email or WhatsApp — Vodacom and Telkom have both collapsed along with Eskom, it appears — it’s almost impossible.

Two-hour spurts of work at a frantic, almost demented pace, hammering away to try to get as many interviews done as possible, to download whatever is needed and charge whatever requires power in preparation for the — hopefully — two hours of powerlessness that is sure as hell going to follow. Thus far, the two hour rule has worked — most of the time — and it’s been possible to get a dysfunctional kind of rhythm going.

Today it hasn’t.

I got my first coffee and signal at about10am. The power lasted for two hours, then nada. It’s back now, but I’m close to tears as I finally get enough signal to get an online feed of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s briefing on his return from Egypt — I hope he charged his phone while he was there — to deal with the latest catastrophe.

Ramaphosa is less than convincing as he mumbles his way through his delivery, like he’s making it up as he goes along. Granted, the head of state is a lawyer turned trade unionist turned businessman turned politician, and not an electrician — but he’s clearly ad libbing as he outlines the latest “plan” to deal with the Eskom mess.

It’s not much of a plan to be honest. I could have come up with a better one. Cancel leave at Eskom; give the lahnees a stern talking to; come up with an emergency recovery plan to ensure Eskom can deliver enough electricity to keep the lights on.

There’s barely mention of removing barriers to getting alternative energy production going; no talk of finding cheaper coal for Eskom; no mention of canning the lahnees bonuses; no letting municipalities buy electricity from other producers; nothing.

I’m flattened. We are fucked. It’s way too late for this kind of nonsensical dithering. How can we, at this stage, be talking about developing emergency plans as if the lights just went off for the first time? Where has this cat been living?

Granted, there’s definitely a generator at Mahlamba Ndlopfu, the presidential residence, but nobody can be that insulated from the collapse of our electricity generation system and the economy, can they?

The head of state wobbles on. Starts talking about there being a “measure” of sabotage in the latest round of power cuts. Somebody disconnected something at the Tutuka power station in Mpumalanga, causing boilers to trip. Or maybe it was two boilers. Oh, and somebody stole some cables.

Ramaphosa catches his breath, and continues.

Government is going to pour millions into investigating and providing constant security and surveillance for the electricity supply system. This is crazy.

I was around when then public enterprises minister Alec Erwin cried sabotage in 2005 after Koeberg nuclear power station went offline, back in the days before load-shedding was a word, and claimed somebody had thrown an 8cm bolt into a turbine.I was also around in 2006 when Erwin declared the breakdown was caused by human error and denied claiming the incident was sabotage.

This is not a smart move by Ramaphosa. It’s a pretty transparent attempt to buy breathing space, to apportion blame to some invisible entity.This is not going to end well.

I can’t watch any more of this.

I kill the feed. Head for bed.

Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller and blag artist.

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