South Africa’s government has spent R1,981,000.00 ($116,147.34) on the procurement and installation of electricity generators at the homes of its Ministers since 2021 and a further R652,750.00 ($38,211.82) since the first half of 2022 to keep these generators running, according to the Democratic Alliance (DA) political party, citing the findings of City Press on Minister Patricia de Lille’s Department of Public Works.
This comes as South Africa faces its worst energy crisis ever, with more concurrent daily rolling blackouts expected this year than ever before. The country’s energy utility, the state-owned and managed Eskom, is bitterly entrenched in a fight against ailing infrastructure, decades of mismanagement and corruption, sabotage at its stations, and illegal striking action in a situation that seems nearly impossible to overcome.
Load shedding, the area-by-area, hour-by-hour distribution of electricity performed by Eskom to avoid a total grid collapse as it is unable to meet the entire public’s power demand, is purported to cost the country’s economy billions of dollars every year. This year’s recent bout of Stage 6 load shedding, where many regions of the country were without power for nearly 10 hours out of the day, reportedly cost the economy R4-billion ($235-million) every day it was implemented.
Most South Africans cannot afford to purchase and maintain generators. A majority of the nation’s citizens live below the poverty line, and with unemployment increasing (SA currently has one of the world’s highest unemployment rates), the situation for South Africans living under load shedding will seemingly only get worse.
Yet the ANC-led government that many believe has caused Eskom’s woes continues to benefit from the average taxpayer, even as many taxpayers sit in the dark during load shedding, and continue to suffer the consequences of not having access to the electricity they are paying for.
The country’s government continues to brook no quarter for its people with Eskom recently announcing plans to apply to raise its electricity tariffs by a further 32.66%, and while this application has yet to be accepted, South Africans are already paying more for electricity than ever before in the country’s history.
As it stands currently, Eskom has managed to gain more control over its grid, with the country’s load shedding status downgraded to Stage 1 and Stage 2 since last week Friday. Recent announcements from the utility indicate that it is planning to bring an end to load-shedding in the next coming few weeks, at least for now.
SA President Cyril Ramaphosa is likewise soon expected to announce an emergency intervention into Eskom’s power generating issues. Ramaphosa wrote in his recent open letter to the public that South Africans “have the right to be angry” about load shedding and that the country has the skills necessary to end the ongoing power crisis.
Reports indicate that the President is toying with the idea to create another state-owned energy utility to “compete” with Eskom, but experts, analysts, and critics have said that the “Eskom 2.0” idea will create more problems than fix.
Many entities, such as South Africa’s Free Market Foundation (FMF), say that the solution to the country’s power crisis lies in the removal of layers upon layers of red tape in the process of allowing independent power producers to join the country’s grid and make use of natural resources reserved for the Eskom monopoly.
“South Africa’s rolling blackouts are caused in the final analysis by Eskom’s de facto monopoly in electricity generation, particularly generation that makes use of coal and nuclear sources of power,” notes the FMF.
“No independent power producer is authorised to make use of these sources, giving Eskom a significant leg up over its potential competitors. This monopoly must be brought to an end by, as a start, changing a single word in the Electricity Regulation Act.”