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Lights are on but all else is dark


Like many of my fellow South Africans, I’m relieved by the news that Eskom’s latest round of power cuts is — for now — over, allegedly until the local government elections on 1 November are done and dusted.

Whether the coal is now dry or Eskom has generated enough power to keep us going until election day doesn’t really matter. A whole day of being able to file stories without hauling my laptop across town in search of electricity and of being able to cook dinner without pulling out the gas cooker, is all that really matters.

It’s been a rough week for all of us trying to live and work around the two-hour load-shedding sessions — several of which ended up lasting for four hours. And there’s no guarantee that André de Ruyter’s promise of an uninterrupted power supply between now and election day will actually materialise.

Not as rough a week as Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane and Mpumalanga agriculture MEC Mandla Msibi had, though.

Both comrades appear to be up against it, what with the double murder charge against Msibi and the pending move against Mabuyane by the Hawks over the public protector’s findings that he benefited from the looting of R1.1-million in municipal funds allocated for logistics for the funeral of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in 2018.

Granted, Mabuyane will take the public protector’s report on review — he’s also bringing an interdict against the Hawks to stop them from arresting him until the review is completed — but, at some point in time, a bail application appears to be pending for the Eastern Cape’s first citizen.

Fair enough.

Thuma Mina or 100% Zuma, bent is bent.

It’s a blazing Durban day, more suited to lounging at the beach than being hunched over a laptop keyboard, slaving away, but the bills need to be paid and a plunge in the ocean will have to wait.

Not that I’ve spent that much time in the water of late.

It’s not just the two weeks of Cape Town weather that we’ve endured, with the rain ensuring that the ocean off Durban is still pretty dirty. 

There is also the small matter of the high levels of chemical pollutants in the water to the north of the Umgeni River courtesy of former president Jacob Zuma’s supporters torching the UPL chemical warehouse near the river’s bank in July — and the sewage breakdown that caused the rest of the city’s central beaches to be closed over high E coli levels, right in time for the start of the school holidays.

The city has re-opened most of the beaches but, given the reality that everybody at City Hall is out and about, trying to make sure the governing party wins and that they still have a job come Christmas, my levels of trust in their decision-making are even lower than usual.

The city fathers and mothers in Durban and elsewhere are far too busy telling lies and cutting ribbons and renaming public toilets in areas with no running water to bother very much about the levels of faecal material in the water along the Golden Mile right now.

The seekers of a new five-year mandate are more focused on driving past potholes in luxury vehicle motorcades — all flags and playthings purchased with money looted from municipal coffers — and can’t do much more than promise to fill them — eventually — but only if they get a cross next to their party’s logo on 1 November first — and another half decade run at the till.

I’ve never understood this strategy of showing off all the ill-gotten gains to the poor at election time in the hope that they will vote ANC. Perhaps I’d be more convinced by the show of opulence if I were starving, or dependent on a grant for survival, for a roof over my head?


The ANC’s flash strategy appears to have worked thus far — the party still governs most of the country, albeit badly, and never seems to run out of unemployed volunteers to go door to door in yellow T-shirts promising other unemployed people that the ANC will give them jobs this time around in exchange for their votes.

It’s not just the elected officials that are out there trying to save their jobs and their Christmas bonuses — civil servants all over the country are busy paying their tithes to the governing party as we speak, whether they want to or not — and will be doing so until 1 November has come and gone.

I’ll stay out of the water till then, thanks.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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