Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Dark and Dreary Dilemma for South Africa

South Africa is heading back to the heart of darkness. After many years of being the leading light of development and hope in the continent, it now finds itself groping in the dark under an energy crisis which could lead to unsavory consequences. The economic achievements and growth of the last few years, estimated at 5% annually, may be overturned by a crippling under supply of electricity that could bring its economy to a grinding halt. The lights have shut down on its bright performance.

The post-apartheid government has done remarkably well in supporting local development leading to the emergence of a black middle class with new spending power. It has attracted foreign investments along with massive infrastructure development, fueling an economic boom that created surplus for the government. Commodity prices soared with these inputs, but it also triggered commerce catering to a new lifestyle for the populace. The government's social development policies provided enormous subsidies to connect the poorer people to the national grid, enabling two thirds of its 42 million population access to electricity to improve their living standards; doubling the 1994 levels of electricity consumers. But the supply side was inadequately provided for, leading to the worst nationwide blackouts in its history.

The declaration of a state of emergency was followed by the rotation of electricity under a load shedding program. The operations of all business establishments, shops, malls, stores, have to close during blackouts for security reasons; restaurants, bake shops, butchers suffer losses, banks and retail establishments have to suspend transactions; and buildings have trapped people in elevators until the lights go up several hours later. The country's gold and platinum mines, its most prominent industry, has also been severely affected. Eskom, the producer of 95% of the country's electricity, has been accused of ignoring warnings about inadequate energy supply and failure to invest in maintenance and coal supplies. Promotion of blacks over more skilled whites were also invoked, as well as corruption through fat salaries and perks. The government is also accused of neglecting the development of South Africa's decrepit energy infrastructure.

Companies selling generators have been the only beneficiaries, and are considered the savior of many entities and international operations. But it comes at a high price and few can afford it. South African consumers expect a doubling of their electric bills in 2009, to fund the investments in energy. But this will also subsidize those who cannot afford the increased rates for power. Households already burdened by rising fuel and food costs face an even bleaker future as a result, with inflation hitting 10% in March followed by interest rates rising to 11.5% in April.

South Africans will have to brace themselves some more for a future plagued with problems. The failure to factor in future growth adequately has cast a pall of gloom for companies, households and investors which could undermine its economy and erode the hopes of its people for a better life after white rule. As Eskom scrambles to find short and long term solutions, one could only hope that their bright boys are not in the dark about finding a suitable one.



Anonymous said...

Is the only difference between today and a few weeks ago the fact that it is now hitting international news???

How many murders are there on a daily basis? How many rapes? How many (white, black, Indian) people suffer mercilessly at the hands of criminals on a daily basis there?

How many of us South Africans living in Europe, live here because this is NOT NEWS TO US!

I'm sorry for what is happening in SA. Very sorry.

But I am "happy" that the rest of the world is finally taking notice of something that has been a problem for years!

This is not news. This was "day-to-day" life for many of us when we were still in SA - wasn't it?

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Anonymous,

I have had several anonymous comments on this site in the past and I just assume these were made by two or three people. But there is something strikingly different about your comment and I assume this is your first time to comment anonymously.

I certainly understand the angry tone in your words because of what is happening in that beautiful country.

I know that crime exists everywhere in the world and it is basically a function of inequality and grinding poverty, even abuse. Not having lived in South Africa, I cannot make comparisons with the rate of crime in London, nor the US, nor even countries in the ASEAN.

However, if these crimes that are day-to-day as you say go on unabated and a culture of corruption aids in its growth one way or the other; and if authorities seem helpless and unable to enforce order, it becomes a valid cause for leaving to safer places and keeping one's sanity.

It is said that South Africa is the most dangerous place on earth that is not at war. I don't know if this is an exaggeration, but there might be reason to think that the people in SA are at war with their past and their uncertain future. A past that they should move on from, and a future that they should build but do not, since their mindsets are based on the past. :-) --Durano, done!

Tapline said...

Brad, I thought SA had a great record with alternative fuel. I have not heard of their lawlessness. Good Post ....stay well....

The Fitness Diva said...

The Congo is most likely the most dangerous place in the world, among quite a few others, but they are plagued with civil wars.

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Tapline,

SA has one of the highest crime rates in the world. There is also reason to believe that the high incidence of rape may be more accurately described as gender violence.

South Africans themselves say that the World Cup is in peril if it will be held here. :-) --Durano, done!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Fitness Diva,

As a matter of fact, South Africa is considered a very dangerous place for a country that is not at war.

The crime rate is appalling. This latest attack on foreigners from Africa is rooted in xenophobia, and they are among the highest with the harshest anti-immigrant sentiment.

Anyway, to be safe, I would hang around there for a while. :-) --Durano, done!

carducci said...

Hi Durano - thanks for your reply! Yes, it was my first comment as "anonymous" !

With just under 20,000 murders in South Africa for 2003-2004 (that’s 54 murders
a day!) why has it taken the international community so long to “notice” that
there is great unrest in South

That you say you didn't know about the crime in SA is more than deeply concerning to me (a statement not aimed AT ALL at you! But rather at the lack of realistic information being spread about SA!)

It is unfortunate that the only news coming out of SA is "tourism-news" - but the only news SOUTH AFRICANS hear about are the latest atrocities that go by as "day-to-day" life there (and they do hear of it! But only the most atrocious, most brutal ever make the headlines down there).

Do yourself a favour and subscribe to a South African newspaper ("The Citizen", "The Star" - there are many online). Crime is no secret there. provides regular South African news as well.

But it does seem to be a secret up here!

Perhaps this "sudden unrest" in South Africa will wake up the northern hemisphere that it needs help down there should they wish to have a successful World Cup!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Carducci,

As a result of your "anonymous comment", I did a small research on South Africa, got into some websites, and chanced upon a chat room concerning that beautiful country. The result of that is the second post on SA about the savagery and criminal activities.

Of course, this would need a thorough analysis and discussion, but under a very short space, I dwelt only on the main points of the current xenophobic attacks and relating these to the crime rate; which leads to a history that still imprisons the minds of the general population mired in hopelessness and poverty.

What you say is true, however, that the only news I get on South Africa are tourism news, being the World Cup site, and what I see on Animal Planet and Discovery. The attacks on foreigners however, is getting a wide exposure. But this only refers to the current scarcity in jobs and current economic woes. This is more deeply rooted. The other news I get from SA are investment analysis from Prieur, a blogsite I have linked to.

Crime is appalling in South Africa, and I'm afraid tourists coming over for the World Cup may be raped, killed, beaten to death or disappear all for the price of a watch, a camera, wallet contents, or what they can withdraw from a credit card if there is electricity of course.

This crime wave must be resolved. I will help in the spread of this information. :-) --Durano, done!