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By William Saunderson-Meyer


Cyril’s lovefest undisturbed as Eskom plunged into yet another crisis

SA’s present plight is caused by the ANC’s deliberate impotence – an intellectual inflexibility coupled with gutlessness in execution.

It warmed the cockles of my heart to see President Cyril Ramaphosa so happy and exuberant during his UK state visit.

There he was, sashaying down red carpets between guards of honour, attending a royal state banquet and cheekily taking advantage of the rare honour of addressing both houses of parliament to demand grants and more concessional loans to fund our “just transition” from coal.

There was also a trundle down the Mall to Buckingham Palace, ensconced in a horsedrawn gilded coach and escorted by a cavalry squadron with sabres drawn. In all, a blissful contrast to home.

The last time we saw Ramaphosa flash his gums with such enthusiasm in SA was shortly after he had deposed his evil predecessor and a deliriously happy public was mobbing him on his morning jogs to slap his back and to touch the magic of his New Dawn raiments. Alas, dawn turned quickly to dusk.

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The only hands now directed at his back are the dagger-clasping paws of his party comrades. Electrical power has gone. Water is going. Civil unrest and violent crime are increasing.

As if on cue, the moment Ramaphosa left South Africa for the UK, Eskom plunged into yet another crisis.

The Radical Economic Transformation saboteurs crippling Eskom facilities time their actions for the greatest political advantage and to showcase the president’s impotence. Ramaphosa has twice had to cut short overseas visits to return and be seen to be “dealing with the crisis”.

This time with Eskom it was not sabotage but stupidity that knocked out the grid. Shortly after the presidential jet departed for London, the utility announced that it had run out of budget to fuel the turbines that provide fallback power generation.

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It had burned through its annual R11 billion diesel budget in just six months and said it shorted another R15 billion to keep the flickering emergency lighting going. Somehow, nobody in the department of public enterprises had twigged that Eskom would be unable to buy diesel without any money.

And Eskom’s pleas to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan had gone unheeded.

Business Day columnist Peter Bruce bemoans the lack of “common sense” displayed not only in this latest debacle, but in the government’s cack-handed approach in general. But there is something more than just a lack of practicality at issue here.

The real problem is the ANC’s ruinous combination of ideological rigidity with moral spinelessness. This government can’t think on its feet for fear of doing something that inadvertently contradicts the sacred tenets of Marxist-Leninist theory.

To make matters worse, it will invariably cave to the basest populist sentiment of its supporters, no matter what the ultimate cost. Gordhan and Ramaphosa both portray themselves as pragmatists when seeking overseas investment and aid.

The reality is they continue to take decisions on strongly ideological grounds, despite the catastrophic effects. SA’s present plight is caused by the ANC’s deliberate impotence – an intellectual inflexibility coupled with gutlessness in execution.

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For now, Gordhan has averted the crisis. Ramaphosa did not have to hurry home. Gordhan has fortuitously discovered that PetroSA was hiding 50 million litres of diesel under the sofa.

This will be diverted to Eskom to keep the gas turbines going for another two weeks. By then, says Gordhan, a “permanent fix” will have been found for Eskom.

Much like the “permanent fix” he promised for SAA, no doubt, that involved lots of super glue, favoured comrades, and a murky organisational and funding structure that he has repeatedly refused to disclose to parliament