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Apartheid to blame for blackouts – Zuma

13 December 2014

Johannesburg – South Africa’s energy problems were a product of apartheid and government was not to blame for the current blackouts, President Jacob Zuma said on Friday.

Zuma“The problem [is] the energy was structured racially to serve a particular race, not the majority,” Zuma told delegates at the Young Communist League’s congress in Cape Town.He said the ANC had inherited the power utility from the previous regime which had only provided electricity to the white minority.

Twenty years into democracy, 11 million households had access to electricity, double the number in 1994, Zuma said in a speech prepared for delivery.

via Apartheid to blame for blackouts – Zuma | News24.

That is true, as far as it goes, but it is not the whole story.

Apartheid can be blamed for many things, but not for this.

Yes, the number of households with access to electricity has doubled since 1994, and for that we can thank the ANC government, and they did a good thing there.

But they failed to foresee that increasing the distribution of electricity required a corresponding increase of generating capacity,

Eskom foresaw this, but for ten years and more the ANC government blocked Eskom’s requests for funding to increase the generating capacity.

  • Apartheid is not to blame for this.
  • Eskom is not to blame for this.
  • The ANC government is to blame for this.

And President Mbeki apologised for this back in 2008.

As a Facebook friend commented:

Actually people in the know have told me it is not Eskom’s fault but the ANC government’s who have faffed around for at least 15 years, playing around with options for new power stations, and playing around with ideas for privatization which attract in the same way as the arms deal did; it is a lack of decisive policy making and implementation by the government. Of course the Zuma culprits and their defenders will blame apartheid.

It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good, however, and the ANC’s shortsightedness saved South Africa from an even worse disaster (that they were planning to bring about).

A Canadian aluminium-smelting firm had noticed that in South Africa electricity was cheaper than in most other places, and were negotiating to build an aluminium smelting plant in Richard’s Bay, with guaranteed cheap rates. You can be sure that the poor communities who had recently had electricity supplied to them would have their rates increased to subsidise it.

ESKOM-pylonsNow I learnt in school geography lessons that the most expensive thing in producing aluminium was the electricity needed for smelting it, and this was why it was big in Canada, because Canada had abundant hydro-electricity for smelting aluminium, no mattter where in the world it was mined.

So why move the sdmelting operation to South Africa, which has mainly coal-fired power stations, which cause far more pollution than hydro-electricity? Because the poor suckers in Soweto would subsidise it, that’s why.

And, just in the nick of time, the espansion of electricity distribution to previously disadvantaged communities outran Eskom’s deliberately-limited supply in 2008, and there were rolling blackouts and load-shedding, so the plan for a smelting plant in Richard’s Bay was cancelled.

And only then did the ANC government wake up to the fact that if you are going to distribute electricity to more people, you need to generate more electricity. But it was too little, too late.

For those (like Jake the Fake) who have short memories, here is a report of President Thabo Mbeki’s State of tghe Nation speech at the time Government at Fault in S. Africa’s Electricity Crisis, Mbeki Says:

President Thabo Mbeki apologized Friday for his government’s failure to prevent crippling power outages across South Africa and warned that restoring a reliable supply of electricity would require new projects and major cuts in usage.

You can blame apartheid for many things, but you can’t blame it for this.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Grey permalink
    13 December 2014 12:12 pm

    From the ANC’s website and written in 2008.

    “””””””””As early as 1994, and more vocally around 1996, Eskom projected that the surplus capacity would end by the year 2007. This was clearly communicated to government. At the time privatisation was seen as the panacea to all the economic problems of the world driven by the neo-liberal economic framework, which was dominant and triumphalist at the time. We got caught in the crossfire. We must today face the consequences of the decisions we took at the time.””””””””””

    They won’t let me place a link, so just copy and paste the paragraph above into your search engine and it will take you to the ANC’s website.

    They are such a lot of liars.

    Then they want us to respect them……MEH!!!!!!!

    • Rangjan permalink
      14 December 2014 2:26 pm

      That is a fascinating quote, which comes from here:
      http://www.anc.org.za/docs/anctoday/2008/at19.htm

      You see it as admitting culpability, and it does in as much as it says “Eskom warned us of the impending crisis” but it is also a half-hearted apology (if that) because the ANC government is described as a passive player “caught in the crossfire” and buffeted by this neo-Liberal ideology (who had this ideology, and who introduced it in government?).

      This is the old cock robin approach so familiar to those who studied previous regimes in South Africa.

      Where I think Steve is wrong is to blame this particular fiasco on Zuma. It takes 15 or so years to build capacity in this industry and the warnings (and errors) were made in 1994/1995. I would blame Mbeki and Mandela for losing the plot at that time, and of course the minister for energy affairs at the time was not Zuma but Pik Botha (and from July1996 Penuel Maduna). From 1999 Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka took over as minister for mineral and energy affairs (Mbeki was now not just running the show but also officially President). I understand that it was during her term of office that the problem started to be addressed (but by the time things were put back on track it was too late to avoid the lack of capacity from 2007 onwards).

      I am sure that there are other figures who should justify why they dropped the ball on this topic, but you need to look at that period and not the current leadership.

      • 14 December 2014 7:11 pm

        Zuma was Deputy President from 1999 to 2005, and so was in government when the relevant decisions were made (or failed to be made). I’ve added a link to a report of Mbeki’s “State of the Nation” address at that time. True, Zuma wasn’t in government when the paw paw actually hit the fan, but that doesn’t give him an out, and he is back in government now, and if he’s evading responsibility, as he certainly is doing, then he’s part of the problem and unlikely to be part of the solution. .

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