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Load shedding continues – stage four

According to Eskom stage 4 load shedding will commence at 9am this morning.

According to ENCA, Eskom’s coal fired power plants have been subject to repeated faults, its hydroelectric operations are suffering from low water levels, and it has repeatedly failed to order enough diesel.

Then a cyclone hit Mozambique, which meant we couldn’t get power from the Cahora Bassa hydroelectric system.

According to EWN the  Public Enterprises Department has stated that Eskom is also suffering from a staff shortage.

This is interesting because in August of 2018, according to Engineering News, Eskom chair Jabu Mabuza told Parliament that Eskom was 33% overstaffed at all levels.

Thava Govender also spoke about sabotage at our power plants.

Meanwhile Times LIVE reports that the Coal Transporters Forum have approached the high court in order to prevent Eskom from signing contracts with Independent Power Producers.

The court reserved judgement.

My Take

I find Jabu Mabuza’s comment interesting, in part because it confirms what I was saying yesterday – that what we’ve got is 10 people doing one person’s job, but five jobs going undone.

We’ve got massive overstaffing, and yet are short staffed in positions that really matter for preventing the disaster we face right now.

I think it also needs to be said that generally monopolies are a bad thing, and Eskom is demonstrating why.

One of the benefits to competition within a capitalist system is redundancy – if one business goes under there’s fifty others doing the same thing so it isn’t the same kind of problem as if there are only four.

If business gets too big to fail, and competition isn’t maintained in the market to avoid that, you get the banking crisis of 2007, and how Standard Bank pretty much got away with engaging in currency manipulation.

With Eskom they know that at the end of the day we will bail them out, because we can’t have over 90% of the country without power.

That doesn’t change whether it is privately owned or publicly owned. With it being publicly owned, at least we can vote for somebody other than the ANC in May, but that is really the only difference it makes.

You can’t restructure away the problems inherent in Eskom right now, the only real solution is the rise of the independent producers.

And we have opposition from the unions and the coal transporters over this, because it hits them in their pockets.

The thing is, if you’re a monopoly that cannot maintain sufficient supply, then you don’t really have a leg to stand on when trying to defend your monopoly.

If Eskom could supply the country with enough power to avoid load shedding, then an argument could be made for keeping its monopoly on the grounds that keeping it public avoids profiteering. It cannot, so no argument in that direction can be made.

Electricity is pretty central to the production process, so not having a reliable supply means we’ve got a serious constraint on business. This in turn means that there is less demand for labour. Lower demand means bosses can get away with treating their workers worse, because if you resign it isn’t a huge problem in a country with over 27% unemployment.

Which means that in order maintain their high wages at Eskom, Numsa are shafting every other worker in the country.

As I mentioned earlier the benefit to keeping Eskom public is that we get to vote for somebody else in these next elections. We can see that it is probably the number one weakness to our economy, and we can see that the ANC have failed to properly manage it.

Are we seriously going to keep a party that can’t keep the lights on in the two months before a general election in power?

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