Power is back in Johannesburg – for now

Last night, Saturday, power was fully restored to my home for the first time since Thursday’s load shedding which appeared to take out half of Johannesburg.

Basically, seven units had gone down at eskom, meaning they had to move over to their diesel generators – except that they hadn’t ordered enough diesel and water, so the whole system fell over.

In order to cope with this they instituted load shedding. Johannesburg’s electrical infrastructure wasn’t designed with the ability to switch it one and off again repeatedly in mind, so half the substations popped.

At the same time we had mass copper cable theft, which meant that even when those substations were fixed, technicians still needed to figure out just where the cable was stolen.

We also had three days of rain – which can’t be fun if you’re one of the city’s engineers and electricians on call trying to solve an electricity crisis.

My impression is that we as a city should be thanking the workers at City Power for what looks to me like a Herculean effort to get our city back online. They did good, and frankly I’d support any bonuses they got out of this.

They deserve every bit of praise of commendation that can be sent their way.

Less good was Eskom’s self congratulatory tone when they proclaimed no load shedding over the weekend. Who needs load shedding when half a major city can’t get power anyway?

And of course they warn that they might have to do it again on short notice.

Everything in my freezer had thawed in that time, by the end of it I didn’t have ice cream, I had milkshake.

And of course I’ve been having braais in the rain. The Smokey Joe got a heck of a workout, because it was the braai that was hot enough to boil a kettle in a reasonable amount of time.

At first it was kind of fun getting the candles out and figuring out how to get everything going without power, but it soon got tedious.

Out of my devices, the one that impressed me most with its battery life was the Nintendo Switch. I’d recommend getting one as a means of coping with power cuts.

I think the city council should be getting the metro police to crack down on scrap dealerships to figure out who bought the stolen copper cable, but the real thing that this reaffirmed for me is this: We can’t continue with the ANC.

The major reason Eskom is a crisis is because so much of our lives rest on having access to electricity. It is a necessity to our modern economy, and every time it goes down that’s lost man hours and unexpected damage to our various systems.

For example when Witbank had a water crisis – it was because getting cut off had caused the water it was pumping out of its dams to its residents to jackhammer, which burst the pipes. You don’t think of that kind of damage being done, but you’ve got to remember a lot of systems aren’t designed to stop.

The sheer cost of the damage caused by this latest round of load shedding I don’t think has been properly counted yet, and so far as I can see it was caused by an ordering problem, and shenanigans at the power plants.

What we need in a new government isn’t something all that revolutionary, the specific policies being presented almost don’t matter, what we need is basic competence.

And that is what we haven’t got in the current ruling party.

Now I don’t know who has the basic competence to run this country well, this isn’t an endorsement of any particular party, but rather a call for us to think scientifically in finding that party.

With science you form a hypothesis, if the hypothesis doesn’t work, you change your hypothesis. With our country we formed the hypothesis that the ANC could in fact lead it.

And so far they have failed at the very basics. I think ANC leadership is a failed hypothesis – and it is maybe time to try a different hypothesis and a different ruling party.

If that party fails, we should try another alternative, because that is what democracy is – a mechanism by which we can have managed regime change in a way that gradually should improve our country through trial and error.

When Cyril Ramaphosa tried to argue that Eskom was this huge monolith that nobody could manage as one unit – thus justifying why he wanted to split it in three – what went through my head at least was “nobody in the ANC can manage it”.

We haven’t really tried the other parties, so we don’t know what different results they could produce.

Sticking with something that is not working, and I think “not working” is pretty much what defines the ANC, isn’t holding strong to some sort of conviction, it is banging your head against the wall over and over again and expecting a different result.

I don’t think any of us expects perfection, but there’s got to be better than this.


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