/ 10 June 2021

In the (power) gloom again

Coronavirus Oberhausen
(Fabian Strauch/Getty Images)


Unlike many of my fellow South Africans, I don’t have time this morning to dwell on whether 10 babies constitute a rogue unit.

Or on how Health Minister Zweli Mkhize’s family can agree to pay back money from the Digital Vibes scam if they didn’t take any of the filthy lucre that flowed — merrily — from bank account to bank account, while the rest of us were locked down under level five.

The power is on — at least for now — so I’m at it, hammering the keyboard, no time for Mkhize or babies. 

It’s freezing by Durban standards but Eskom boss André de Ruyter is back to issuing edicts like our very own Prince Of Darkness, so we’re back in the work-while-you-can zone.

We’re marking day 441 with a move to stage three of load-shedding, apparently. Exactly how many hours of electricity deprivation this entails for lower Glenwood today, is unclear right now. It may be four hours on the trot. It may be three hours of no power, no signal.’ 

It may be more.

It will be as many hours as the Prince of Darkness says it will.

It’s hard to keep up with all the jumps from stage to stage.

It’s as if The Prince can’t decide how badly he’s going to punish us for calling him a racist; keeps on changing his mind about how rough our day should be.

Perhaps it’s not personal.

Perhaps The Prince is acting on instruction from his lahnee, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, in working us over, as part of another elaborate ANC-led conspiracy.

What if De Ruyter’s brief is not to fix Eskom, but to break it, and to break us down, power cut by power cut, take us to a point where we are so desperate for eight hours of uninterrupted electricity that we will accept the Karpowership deal or nuclear power or Unicorns on treadmills or whatever other “solution” cabinet eventually signs off on without question?

Without protest.

Without scrutiny.


Whether it’s a conspiracy or not; whether it’s stage three, stage four or stage two of load-shedding is immaterial at this point. There’s no time to process a fresh anxiety added to all of those that have developed since the lockdown started in March last year.

What matters now is delivering that which I owe before The Prince pulls the plug — again.

Turns off the lights.

Powers up his time machine and renders the technology that allows us to continue earning a living in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic in a slightly less life threatening fashion about as useful as a parachute on a submarine.

Transports us back in time.

Back in history.

But not as far as 1652.

My mobile blows up.

There’s a mad flurry of videos and photos from another ANC cat in Jozini. We had been talking the day when his phone went dead, before he could send the photos and videos.

Jozini falls under the ANC’s Far North region, along with Mkuze and Hlabisa and other towns that make up the Umkhanyakude district municipality. 

The comrades in the Far North have a power struggle going on.

Not just with Eskom, but with each other.

The bulk of the region backed Cyril Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign for the party presidency at Nasrec in 2017 and split the province, whose leadership backed Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

It’s conference season again — regional, provincial and national — and local government elections are confirmed for 27 October, so the ANC’s branches are busy with their branch general meetings to elect conference delegates and name their councillor nominees.

The region is now split. 

One grouping backs Ramaphosa, the other has aligned itself with the radical economic transformation faction, with a third, consisting of supporters of Mkhize’s own presidential campaign in 2017, still stunned from Tuesday’s announcement by Ramaphosa that he was placing the health minister on special leave pending the outcome of the Special Investigating Unit probe into Digital Vibes.

Tensions are high — as they were ahead of Nasrec and the 2016 local government poll — and claims of gatekeeping and the creation of parallel branches are starting to emerge.

The pictures and videos tell a story.

Men with R5s, AR-15s and pump-action shotguns surround what appears to be a community hall; one firing off shotgun rounds to drive away the crowd that’s trying to get inside.

The images are frightening — a stark reminder of 2016, when the ANC’s candidate selection processes turned deadly and the bodies piled up across the province.

Hopefully they’re not the precursor to another season of killings to come.

I close the phone. 

Get back to the keyboard.