South Africa: State of Collapse

Tom Finnerty11 Mar, 2023 3 Min Read
The more things change...

South Africa is in the midst of a political crisis, and energy shortages are at the heart of it. You'll be forgiven for not having heard—western media has preferred to focus on the war in Ukraine and everything else has fallen through the cracks. Here's a rare report on the matter, from Britain's The Spectator:

Blackouts of up to ten hours a day are bringing businesses to a halt, making teaching harder and turning traffic lights dark. Food is rotting in warm fridges. There were more than 200 blackouts last year and they have continued every day so far in 2023.... The cause is a debt-ridden and run-down fleet of power stations, which have been starved of repairs and regularly break down. Electricity supplies have to be switched off to stop the grid collapsing....

The power cuts are affecting every sector. Erratic supply is hitting the country’s mining giants, its major exporters. Small grocers and supermarkets are shutting shop. ShopRite, Africa’s biggest grocer, said in its financial results that it had to spend an extra £26 million on diesel in the final half of last year to run supermarket generators during power cuts. The country’s sugar industry estimates it will lose £33 million this year. Unemployment is running at around a third.

And if you are wondering what this means for regular South Africans, read this lengthy Twitter thread. A few excerpts:

How did this happen? It is a complex story, but it has a few key themes running through it. First of all, corruption at the state-run energy utility Eskom. Farmer details how former president Jacob Zuma spent years helping his cronies embezzle money from Eskom. But the corruption didn't end when Zuma left office. When Eskom brought in a new CEO, André de Ruyter, to reform the organization, he found that it was rife with criminality. According to de Ruyter, "Machinery has been deliberately sabotaged so that gangs can benefit from maintenance contracts; good coal is stolen and sold off, to be replaced with poor-quality fuel or even rocks." And when he tried to get to the bottom of it, someone slipped cyanide into his coffee. De Ruyter recovered, but he ultimately resigned in frustration, and has decided to leave the country. He told The American Conservative's Helen Andrews, “I think it will be good for my health.”

Hard times, indeed...

Second, incompetence. Andrews' report explores how the centrality of affirmative action polices -- intended to combat inequality in a nation which spent decades under a notorious apartheid regime -- has left the company unable to deal with this kind of crisis.

In 1995, [Eskom's] senior management was mandated to go from 70 percent white to 50 percent black by 1999 and 75 percent black by 2005. In 2008, Eskom’s head of human resources announced, “Over the next five years...Eskom has to appoint two new staff every day, and it is adamant that one of them will be a black woman.”

Well it has now been 15 years, and the company is $26 billion in debt and the power grid is on the verge of collapse. Aptitude-based hiring does have its advantages.

And, of course, there is the environmentalist angle. South Africa is known for its coal mining, something that environmentalists and their political lapdogs have been complaining about for years. In order to stay in the good graces of their western counterparts, South Africa's government—lead by the corrupt African National Congress party of Nelson Mandela since 1994—has signed onto increasingly onerous environmental regulations over the last several years. Their object is the eventual phase-out of coal. What will it be replaced with? There have been some vague gestures at renewable energy, but the real answer is nothing. They haven't thought that far ahead.

Which is to say, western elites have fomented this crisis. Moreover, a lot of this should remind you of their vision for America. Skyrocketing energy prices, inflation, crime rates, equality-of-outcome-ordered affirmative action, pie-in-the-sky energy policies -- sounds like a Leftist paradise. Except none of them would want to live there.

Tom Finnerty writes from New England and Ontario.


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2 comments on “South Africa: State of Collapse”

  1. When Western leftists were demanding the end of apartheid those who sought to preserve it said that handing control of South Africa over to black people would result in the eventual destruction of civility, order, productivity, and prosperity. Everything that has happened since the end of apartheid has gone exactly as the defenders of apartheid predicted.

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