Saturday, March 8, 2014

Elections 2014: And then there was no light

No Fear No Favour No Parastatals credible........

Eskom: Load-shedding is the last resort

Mia Lindeque

JOHANNESBURG – Eskom says the power grid remains under pressure this weekend with relentless rain in the Gauteng Province making it difficult to build up reserves. 

The power utility took urgent measures this week, declaring an emergency and implementing rolling blackouts when it realised it didn't have the capacity to keep the lights on.

Thursday's load-shedding forced several businesses to shut their doors, airports were disrupted and health facilities had to rely on generators.

This is the first time Eskom has implemented load-shedding in six years. 

The parastatal moved to clarify the reasons for implementing load-shedding, saying it experienced a severe problem in providing power.

It said the situation was similar to what happened in 2008.

Eskom CEO Brian Dames has once again urged customers to switch off unnecessary appliances to avoid more load-shedding.

“For the next two months that is the case, it’s all red. Any unforeseen events with the system in a red state are certainly a risk. It makes the whole system vulnerable.”  

He says load-shedding is the power giant’s last resort.

“The procedures where we deal with critical loads in terms of the codes of practice around hospitals and airports are in place. These cannot be kept off the schedules and therefore sometimes it’s necessary that they do have emergency back-up generators in place.”

Eskom expects problems with power supply to continue until next month and has been called to Parliament to explain Thursday's decision to implement load-shedding.

(Edited by Tamsin Wort)


Eskom: Medupi wouldn't have stopped power cuts


JOHANNESBURG – The Medupi power station wouldn’t have been able to prevent load-shedding, Eskom said on Friday.
The utility lifted its power grid emergency last night after being forced to implement load-shedding for most of Thursday.

Eskom says it had to implement the power cuts because coal supplies were wet after days of heavy rains.

This is the first time Eskom has implemented load-shedding in six years.

The parastatal moved to clarify the reasons for implementing load-shedding, saying it experienced a severe problem in providing power.
It said the situation was similar to what happened in 2008.

The electricity giant says although the emergency has been lifted and there are no power cuts scheduled, South Africans must still use electricity sparingly.

Eskom CEO Brian Dames says the utility would’ve needed more than what the Medupi power station could offer.
Company chairperson Zola Tsotsi echoed the sentiments. 
“The situation will be with us for some time. Even the new Medupi units wouldn’t have been enough to avoid yesterday’s load-shedding.”

Dames says the rainy weather is expected to continue over the next two weeks, which will affect coal stockpiles and put a lot of strain on the grid.
The utility expects problems with power supply to continue until next month
Meanwhile, Eskom has been called to Parliament to explain Thursday's decision to implement load-shedding.

Eskom says South Africans must stop looking for someone to blame for the problems with the power supply and save electricity to avoid more outages.

The utility has come under fire from experts, saying it should stop shifting the blame and start taking responsibility for its inability to meet demand.

Energy expert Chris Yelland on Thursday said Eskom must face up to the idea that it is solely to blame for the country’s power woes.

“When the weather is hot, they blame the hot weather. When the weather is cold, they blame the cold weather. When it’s raining, they blame the wet weather. The bottom line is they’re blaming everybody except themselves.”

Yelland said Eskom simply hasn't been upfront with South Africans about the true nature of the situation.


Ranjeni Munusami   SOUTH AFRICA  7 MARCH 2014  12:46

In PR terms, the ANC has had a rough ride in the approach to this year’s elections: deadly and rampant service delivery protests, corruption scandals, poor performance of the economy, successive fuel price increases, the e-tolling mess and of course, the king of all PR nightmares, the Nkandla security upgrades. As of Thursday, rolling nationwide electricity blackouts were introduced into the mix of things that induce frustration and rage among South Africans. The ANC says load shedding will have no effect its election campaign but for as long as the power supply remains vulnerable, electricity outages remain a reality. Someone will have to carry the burden of responsibility. So far it’s the consumer, who might, incidentally, also be a voter. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY.

It was dramatic day of testimony at the Oscar Pistorius murder trial on Thursday, but this was not top of mind for South Africans. The country woke up to news that power utility Eskom declared an electricity emergency at 6am, and like a recurring nightmare from six years ago, load shedding began across the country from 9am. The electricity supply had been fragile for some time and this was the fourth emergency declared this year. However there was no advance warning of the power disruptions on Thursday and they caused havoc across the country with traffic, business, hospitals and airports all severely affected.
Eskom introduced load shedding in January 2008, where areas were dropped off the national power grid on a rotating schedule. These continued on and off until April 2008 but the effect and memory of rolling blackouts haunted South Africans for years to come. The power cuts took a heavy toll on productiveness and people’s way of life. There have been steep hikes in the cost of electricity since then, but this did not bring stability to the power supply. There have been consistent fears that the mass power cuts would return.
The timing of the resumption of rolling blackouts could not have come at a worse time for government and the ANC. Both have been punting the “good story” they have to tell about progress in the country since 1994 and how much South Africans’ lives have improved. With national elections two months away, there is a determination to keep the “good story” narrative going with delivery statistics and the promise of big developments in the future.
However, this storyline has been difficult to sustain with an escalation of service delivery protests this year, hikes in the price of fuel announced in the Budget speech and the low growth rate. In Gauteng, the e-tolling system continues to cause disgruntlement with chaos in the billing system. The Public Protector’s office announced on Thursday that Thuli Madonsela would release her investigation report into the security upgrades at President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla residence on 19 March. This means that the biggest scandal of the Zuma administration will be again at the top of the national agenda seven weeks before the election.
The ANC definitely does not need nationwide anger about load shedding to contend with as well. Large industrial customers were asked to reduce their consumption by 10% to ease the demand but this was not enough to prevent load shedding. Ordinary people bear the brunt, unable to cook food, work, charge their phones, get around in traffic or use any appliance.
People tend to lose their sense of humour when their lives are disrupted.
But ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu says the rolling power cuts will not reflect negatively on the party. He said government was doing everything possible to sustain energy provision and strengthen the country’s energy mix options. The situation would hopefully stabilise once the Medupi and Kusile power stations came online, he said.
Mthembu said more South Africans have access to electricity than ever before, and consumers should play their part to reduce consumption. “In the short term, we can work together to preserve energy so we don’t find ourselves in the 2008 situation,” Mthembu said.
But the Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba, who is also the ANC’s head of elections, decided to make a statement in Parliament on Thursday afternoon to clarify why exactly the blackouts were happening. Eskom spokesman Andrew Etzinger had already said early in the day that the grid would remain under strain for a long time.
It will persist for the next two years as it will take that long for us to bring capacity back on and catch up on the immense backlog we have on our existing generators,” Etzinger said in an interview with Radio 702.
Gigaba said in Parliament that his department had been “managing a delicate electricity system” and that load shedding was done as a last resort to “protect the national system from a total blackout”.
Utilising load shedding enables Eskom to balance supply and demand in a controlled manner while minimising the risk of a total blackout. A total blackout also takes longer, up to weeks, to recover to normality,” Gigaba said.
He gave the following reasons for the power emergency:
  • Depleted dry coal stockpiles at some power
stations due to the rainy weather conditions;
  • Eskom lost three units at Kendal Power Station in Mpumalanga, as
well as having to reduce output at other power stations;
  • Dam levels are low at Drakensberg and Palmiet Pumped Storage
power stations;
  • Loss of imports via Zimbabwe Electricity Supply
Authority (ZESA), the Zimbabwean electricity utility;
  • After all reserves were used and after a reduction by key industrial customers at
8am, an additional reduction in demand of about 3,000MW was needed to balance
the electricity system.
With wet weather conditions set to continue over the next few days, the power supply will remain vulnerable, but Gigaba said the three Kendal units and another unit from the Majuba Power Station would be up again in the course of day. His assurances that Eskom was in a much better position to manage the situation than they were in 2008 would be cold comfort for the millions of people who were affected by the outages on Thursday.
There will now also be growing fears about the strain on the electricity supply in the winter months. The first unit of the Medupi Power Station is only expected to be completed towards the end of the year, which means there is no quick fix on the horizon to carry the country through the winter months. Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said in his Budget speech that 47 renewable energy projects, which would add 2,460 MW of power capacity, were under construction.
But as far as reassuring consumers, and voters, that electricity supply will be stable throughout winter, this is not a good story the government and the ANC have to tell. Gordhan conceded during a media conference ahead of his Budget speech that electricity deficiencies had been a constraint on economic growth. So apart from the short-term discomfort of load shedding on consumers, the instability in power supply is destructive to all the development plans the ANC government is envisaging.
The opposition parties will no doubt use the resumption of load shedding as a stick to beat the ANC with. The Democratic Alliance (DA) has already requested that Speaker Max Sisulu convene a debate of public importance on the power crisis and confirmed load shedding.
South Africans deserve answers for why we are again at this point. It is unacceptable that six years after the last energy crisis, Eskom has still not managed to adequately increase its capacity to deal with such challenges. At the heart of the problem are construction delays at the Medupi power station. The project has limped from delay to delay and is running significantly over budget,” the DA’s public enterprises spokeswoman Natasha Michael said.
The DA has taken every step possible to try and ensure that all those responsible for this, including the ANC-linked Hitachi Africa, are held to account. But we have been blocked at almost every turn. The blame for this must be placed at the door of Zuma’s ANC. They are more concerned with making money off of our energy woes than with fixing it,” Michael said.
She was referring to the delays in the construction of the Medupi Power Station attributed to Hitachi Power Africa, in which the ANC’s investment arm Chancellor House had a 25% stake. Hitachi and Chancellor House parted ways last month. Hitachi has the contract to construct boilers for the Medupi and Kusile power stations.
Over the next few weeks, there will no doubt be political pressure on Eskom to avoid more load shedding so that this week’s outages could be blamed on, among other things, the wet weather. If the blackouts reoccur, the ANC’s election campaign trail might prove to be significantly more challenging than it has been up to now. A large proportion of the 25,390,150 people registered to vote seem to still be undecided about where they will place their cross. Load shedding could prove to be a tipping point and push more people into a defiance vote.
While the ANC does not yet appear to be worried, they must know that the “good story” will be a lot more difficult to tell in the dark.DM
Photo by Reuters, we think.


The persistence of the past in the present


There’s undoubtedly been some improvement in the quality of life since 1994, but it can’t be denied that there’s a certain sense of déjà vu. By RAYMOND SUTTNER.

It is said a picture tells a thousand words. Of course, images must not be read in a static manner. However, in looking at our surroundings, there is a sense of familiarity, the knowledge that ‘we have seen much of this before.’
Let us look at who lies dead on the ground or dying from gunshot wounds or writhing from the impact of rubber bullets. Who are those who fill prisons, either as awaiting-trial or convicted prisoners? Who are the homeless or those living in ramshackle huts that easily catch fire or are flooded? Who walk through sewerage in the streets where they live? Who hide at the sight of police, even if they have committed no wrong? Who may be assaulted or killed, generally with impunity, by police. Are these citizens treated any differently from those who were victimised under Apartheid?
Who are the protesters who are dispersed and forced to inhale tear gas, even if they are young children? Who are the children who die as a result of falling into pit toilets? Who are forced to drink polluted water? All of these form part of the same section of the population, the majority of the inhabitants of South Africa, black people, who were nationally oppressed under Apartheid.
What this imagery depicts is that those who are profiled as likely to commit a crime and are killed, belong to the same category of people who were targets of repression under Apartheid. They might have committed a crime. However, they often are killed as part of a ‘mob’ or because they ‘appear suspicious’.
As one examines the images around us, one is cautious not to simply say ‘this is the same as under Apartheid.’ Much has undeniably changed since 1994. Yet there are disturbing patterns of continuity. Those who were marginalised are generally the same as under the Apartheid system, which enshrined rights for whites and no rights for black people.
Despite a democratic constitution, most black people cannot enjoy rights with the same security because they comprise the category that continues to arouse suspicion. They are the ones who fall victim to police bullets, or find themselves facing charges as accused.
In some parts of Johannesburg residents receive periodic text messages speaking about robberies. Residents are alerted that two or three ‘bravo’ (black) men were seen nearby. Even if there has not been a robbery residents are cautioned to beware of certain ‘bravo men’ who are driving this or that car, or are on foot. There is no certainty that these people intend to commit a crime. It is not always reported whether or not they did anything, or if they were apprehended on suspicion, or if they were shot or assaulted by an overzealous member of the community, or whether the suspicion was later shown to be warranted or not.
‘Black’ has previously been, and continues to be, a code word for criminality.  In the new, democratic South Africa that has been bought into being, repression is directed against black communities in the ‘war’ against crime. The most disastrous was the Marikana massacre, yet other atrocities committed by police persist, and many have died.
The oppressive conditions of black people endure, beyond the character of policing. Large numbers of black communities continue to live in dehumanised conditions, without basic utilities. These communities are often without safe and clean places for children to play.
Many people ‘hang around’ in informal settlements or townships all day and night because almost 40% of the adult population (the ‘extended’ definition of unemployment) are without work. There is frustration and stress, and there are atrocities: as in the periodic vigilante killings of suspected gangsters or of other people, the motives for which we do not know.
Pervasive oppression against the majority extends to the rural areas. Chiefs and government are determined to return rural people to the rule of traditional leaders, within the same boundaries as the previous bantustans: rendering rural people vulnerable to being hauled before a chief and punished without the option of access to the common law. Despite communities, especially rural women, repeatedly demonstrating their opposition, government and the ANC are determined to re-empower traditional leaders against rural communities, through colonially defined authority against rural-based citizens. For the moment, the Traditional Courts Bill has been defeated.
These are challenges that will not be addressed in forthcoming elections. But we need to recover our constitutional rights. We need to ensure that they are realised for all. This may mean building a new coalition of forces within a broader constituency beyond existing parties: based on such values as constitutionalism, respect and dignity of persons, clean government and an end to violence. But first, we must dare to look at the picture, examine its complexities and intricacies. This will help us make effective interventions to address the persistence of the past in the present. DM
[This article first appeared in Creamer media’s
Professor Raymond Suttner is attached to Rhodes University and UNISA. He writes a regular column and is interviewed weekly on Creamer Media’s Suttner is a former political prisoner and was in the leadership of the ANC-led alliance. He blogs at
Photo: Police had running battles with residents of Nkaneng shantytown on 15 September 2012. Burning tires and rock barricades were set up in the township. The police shot at, teargassed and also arrested some 14 residents. Many of the injured were women, one of them died. Nkaneng, Marikana, North West. South Africa,  (Greg Marinovich)


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