Updated 06 March 2014

Shedding the load or passing the buck?

South Africa is in darkness. But the load shedding is no one’s fault, Eskom maintains. Am I missing something huge here, asks Susan Erasmus? Are they?

Susan Erasmus is a freelance writer for Health24.

South Africa is in darkness, except for the area around the North Gauteng High Court. But the load shedding is no one’s fault, Eskom maintains. Am I missing something huge here, asks Susan Erasmus?

I am  faced by several hours of darkness this evening. A bit of a warning might have been nice, but an emergency was only declared this morning when a warning was issued of possible power cuts. How can one go from fine to crisis mode overnight, or has someone been sleeping on the job? The story of wet coal has had me giggling all day. Ever hear of a tarpaulin, guys?

Both large industrial customers and the public were asked to reduce their electricity usage, to no avail, the naughty people. (It’s not that they had any time to plan this, now, did they?) I have a horrible suspicion I left my reading light above my bed on, but I doubt if that is the thing that pushed Eskom over the brink. I get the feeling Eskom’s been dancing on the edge of disaster for a lot longer than early Thursday morning.

But this classic sentence in a news report on News24 was enough to make me gasp:

The government says it has not received any reports of the economy being affected by load shedding, adding that two ministers will keep watch over the situation.

This is just wrong on so many levels. A business which has had no warning of impending powerlessness, is hardly going to be in a position to compile and send a report to the government on how they have been affected. The computers are down after all. Economic results are long-term things. A morning is hardly enough to establish some sort of trend.

How can the economy not be affected by power cuts? If this were the case, why do we have electricity at all? It seems very expensive for something that isn’t necessary.

And then the clincher that ‘two ministers will keep watch over the situation’. I presume they will find a nice vantage point on a hill somewhere and stare out over the landscape. If they spot something amiss, they might be unable to make a phone call to report it if their phone batteries have gone flat. I find the thought of these two personages watching over us and the economy deeply comforting.

I can hear their conversation:
Minister 1: I can’t see anything wrong with the economy.
Minister 2: Neither can I. Maybe I would be able to see something if it wasn’t so dark.
Minister 1: Let’s call it a day. You know how I feel about overtime.
Minister 2: Good idea. I must go and charge up my generator before it gets so dark that I can’t  see what I am doing.

Just thinking about this makes me feel so much better already. It always does that to me when I realise that the authorities are in charge, they know what they’re doing, we can depend on them, and they have the ability to anticipate crises, and warn us accordingly. Warm, warm fuzzy feeling.

Back to my possibilities for the impending evening:
  • Find a friend whose power is still on and invite myself to supper
  • Read by candelight
  • Phoning someone on the home phone to have a chat
  • Have a long bath as the water in the geyser will still be hot
  • Light a fire and braai something
  • Open a lovely bottle of wine
It’s actually starting to sound quite nice. And now that I know that electricity isn’t needed for the economy to flourish, I can also look forward to a severe reduction in my household expenses. Let’s call this a light bulb moment. It might be the last one I ever have.


More by Cybershrink

2013-02-09 07:27



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