EN­ERGY MIX NEEDS A SPEEDY RES­O­LU­TION

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - HUMAN RIGHTS - AYANDA MD­LULI

BE­HIND the scenes in the en­ergy in­dus­try, there is a ma­jor spat be­tween ad­vo­cates of nu­clear, coal and those who are root­ing for re­new­able en­ergy in South Africa.

Ad­vo­cates of re­new­ables are adamant there should be no en­ergy mix, and that re­new­able or “green en­ergy” is the only al­ter­na­tive for the fu­ture sup­ply of en­ergy in this coun­try.

Those who are ad­vo­cat­ing for coal and nu­clear to be the pri­mary driv­ers of en­ergy are call­ing for an en­ergy mix, where all forms of en­ergy sup­ply are given an equal mea­sure of re­sources.

The arguments and coun­ter­ar­gu­ments from both sides are com­pelling, which makes it near im­pos­si­ble to adopt one ab­so­lute po­si­tion. As we stand, SA is in the eco­nomic dol­drums as a re­sult of an in­suf­fi­cient sup­ply of en­ergy. South Africa’s en­ergy cri­sis has re­sulted in the loss of jobs across a wide range of sec­tors.

En­ergy is the back­bone of the South African econ­omy and, whether we like it or not, the in­vest­ment into South Africa’s en­ergy sec­tor needs to be di­verse.

In April, En­ergy Min­is­ter Jeff Radebe fast-tracked the sign­ing of the 27 in­de­pen­dent power pro­duc­ers (IPP) worth an es­ti­mated R1.4 tril­lion.

Some econ­o­mists and en­ergy ex­perts who are against this move claim that the sign­ing of the 27 IPPs are set to ben­e­fit com­pa­nies with close ties to the pres­i­dent’s fam­ily and close-knit cir­cle of friends who have in­ter­ests in re­new­able en­ergy. This is fur­ther com­pounded by the fact that Radebe, in his ca­pac­ity as en­ergy min­is­ter, has re­fused to di­vulge the names and directors of the com­pa­nies that are go­ing to ben­e­fit from the IPPs.

South Africa has a loom­ing en­ergy cri­sis of which, ac­cord­ing to ex­perts in the field, by 2030 the coun­try will have just around 20GW (gi­gawatt) if not less of elec­tric­ity-gen­er­a­tion ca­pac­ity.

Ac­cord­ing to avail­able data, South Africa is go­ing to lose about 25GW of power-gen­er­a­tion ca­pac­ity from the grid.

In­for­ma­tion from the South African En­ergy Fo­rum con­tends that by 2045, Eskom’s gen­er­a­tion ca­pac­ity will be al­most zero and in­signif­i­cant, be­cause all the power plants will be out of ser­vice with only one nu­clear sta­tion left, and most of the power plants hav­ing been de­com­mis­sioned.

Eskom is said to be pay­ing for power it does not need and is al­legedly pay­ing R93 mil­lion a day to the IPPs for en­ergy it does not need, which will amount to about R34 bil­lion a year. If Eskom re­vealed the to­tal kWh for the full year 2017 and the first six months of this year from wind and so­lar IPPs it “ac­tu­ally” ab­sorbed to the grid and supplied to con­sumers ver­sus the to­tal kWh it paid them, it would show that Eskom paid for some­thing it did not need.

It is im­por­tant that the coun­try re­mains part of the global com­mu­nity’s com­mit­ment to re­duc­ing car­bon emis­sions. You can­not im­prove the en­vi­ron­ment by dam­ag­ing the econ­omy. But if South Africa’s en­ergy needs are not ad­dressed ef­fec­tively with a bal­anced mix of en­ergy sup­ply, we can kiss the econ­omy good­bye and say hello to po­lit­i­cal and so­cio-eco­nomic turmoil.

THE out­break of the World War I, com­ing lit­tle more than a decade af­ter the An­glo-Boer War ended, pre­sented white South Africans with a co­nun­drum. Should they join Bri­tain and her al­lies, de­spite hav­ing re­cently fought so fiercely against the colo­nial power, or should they back Ger­many and the cen­tral pow­ers, who had given at least moral sup­port to the Afrikan­ers?

For the govern­ment of Louis Botha, a for­mer Boer gen­eral, this was no easy choice. Only four years ear­lier, Afrikaner lead­ers had brought to­gether four colonies in a Union.

They had also forged an un­likely al­liance with their for­mer English ad­ver­saries and were get­ting to grips with re­build­ing the coun­try’s dev­as­tated farms and mines. Should they par­tic­i­pate at all?

In fact, long be­fore Botha had made up his mind 1914: he would give the Bri­tish the sup­port they wanted. Both Botha and his right-hand man, Jan Smuts, saw their in­ter­ests as be­ing closely as­so­ci­ated with the Bri­tish Empire. Botha him­self went out of his way to be help­ful.

Win­ston Churchill wrote that in 1913, Botha had re­turned from a visit to Ger­many warn­ing that the sit­u­a­tion was omi­nous. “I can feel that there is dan­ger in the air,” the gen­eral had warned Churchill. “And what is more, when the day comes I am go­ing to be ready too. When they at­tack you, I am go­ing to at­tack Ger­man South-West Africa and clear them out.”

When war was de­clared, the first re­sponse Lon­don re­ceived from Pre­to­ria was promis­ing. On Au­gust 4, the South African govern­ment of­fered to re­lieve the Bri­tish gar­ri­son based in South Africa so that it could be trans­ferred else­where. The colo­nial sec­re­tary, Lord Har­court, ac­cepted Botha’s of­fer and en­quired whether South African forces might seize ports in the Ger­man colony, South-West Africa.

The South African Cabi­net met the same day to con­sider the re­quest.

Ac­ced­ing to Lon­don’s wishes was not go­ing to be easy. There was op­po­si­tion from many Afrikan­ers, who ques­tioned why they should take up arms on be­half of their old en­emy. It took the prime min­is­ter three days to achieve a unan­i­mous vote in Cabi­net in favour of go­ing to war: even then, he had to prom­ise that the army would be com­posed solely of vol­un­teers.

Out­side the govern­ment, there was strong op­po­si­tion from an­other Boer war vet­eran, Gen­eral JBM Hert­zog. He had re­fused to ac­cept Botha’s pol­icy of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion be­tween English and Afrikaans-speak­ing whites and had been ex­cluded from the govern­ment.

Then, in Jan­uary 1914, he broke with Botha to form the Na­tional Party.

When a re­bel­lion broke out among Afrikan­ers op­posed to the war, the govern­ment had its hands full try­ing to put it down.

It was not un­til early 1915 that Botha could fi­nally take up com­mand of the South-West Africa cam­paign and lead his troops into the ter­ri­tory. It took six months of hard fight­ing to force a Ger­man surrender, but in July 1915, this was achieved. With in­ter­nal trou­bles be­hind him and South-West Africa un­der his con­trol, Botha could con­cen­trate on play­ing a full part in the wider war.

Smuts was dis­patched to lead the at­tack on Ger­man forces in Tan­ganyika (present-day Tanzania). White South African troops were also sent to join the war in Europe. They were to die in their thou­sands – more than 2 300 white sol­diers were killed in the bat­tle of Delville Wood alone.

Dis­as­ter struck when more than 600 African vol­un­teers, sent to dig trenches in France, were drowned af­ter their ship was ac­ci­den­tally rammed in the English Chan­nel in Fe­bru­ary 1917. Oral his­tory records that Rev­erend Isaac Wau­chope com­forted the men aboard the sink­ing ship with th­ese words: “I, a Zulu, say here and now that you are all my broth­ers… Xhosas, Swazis, Pon­dos, Ba­sotho and all oth­ers, let us die like war­riors. We are the sons of Africa.

Raise your war cries, my broth­ers, for though they made us leave our as­segais back in the kraals, our voices are left with our bod­ies.”

On hear­ing of the tragedy, Prime Min­is­ter Botha led Par­lia­ment in stand­ing to pay tribute.

For South Africa’s African and coloured com­mu­ni­ties, World War I of­fered the same op­por­tu­nity as the Boer War: a chance to show their loy­alty to their coun­try and the Crown.

On hear­ing of the out­break of con­flict, the ANC (then still called the South African Na­tive Na­tional Congress) halted its ag­i­ta­tion against the 1913 Land Act. Its gen­eral sec­re­tary, Sol Plaatje, de­clared that Africans were keen to join up and “pro­ceed to the front” and in Oc­to­ber 1914 of­fered to raise a force of 5 000 men. The sec­re­tary of de­fence’s re­ply was brusque to the point of rude­ness.

“The govern­ment does not de­sire to avail it­self of the ser­vices in a com­bat ca­pac­ity, of cit­i­zens not of Euro­pean de­scent in the present hos­til­i­ties.”

Even though they were for­bid­den to carry arms, large num­bers of Africans did par­tic­i­pate, mostly as labour­ers. Around 74 000 Africans served in South-West Africa, East Africa and France.

Coloured South Africans were just as en­thu­si­as­tic. The APO (African Po­lit­i­cal Or­gan­i­sa­tion) of Dr Ab­du­rah­man was keen to help with the en­list­ment: “By of­fer­ing to bear our share of the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties”, said Ab­du­rah­man, coloured men would prove them­selves not less wor­thy than any other sons of the Bri­tish Empire.

Their of­fer was not re­buffed. In Septem­ber 1915, the govern­ment de­cided to raise an in­fantry bat­tal­ion, known as the Cape Corps. They were to see ac­tion in East Africa, Turkey, Egypt and Pales­tine.

The po­lit­i­cal par­ties rep­re­sent­ing coloured and African peo­ple were not un­der any il­lu­sion that their show of pa­tri­o­tism would sweep away the racism and seg­re­ga­tion­ist poli­cies at home. But par­tic­i­pat­ing in the war did bring its re­wards.

As ed­u­ca­tion­ist and politi­cian DDT Jabavu con­cluded, “in 1920, the Na­tive Labour Con­tin­gent… im­ported into this coun­try a new sense of racial unity and amity quite un­known hereto­fore among our Bantu races. Com­mon hard­ships in a com­mon camp have brought them into close re­la­tion.”

Africans also noted their favourable treat­ment by French civil­ians and com­pared it with the racist be­hav­iour of some of their own of­fi­cers. Jabavu wrote: “The re­sult is that there is among the di­ver­si­fied Bantu tribes of this land a ten­dency to­wards mu­tual re­spect… founded upon the un­healthy ba­sis of an anti-white sen­ti­ment.”

For white South African lead­ers, World War I ce­mented their place within the im­pe­rial fam­ily. They had made their con­tri­bu­tion and shown the value of their friend­ship. The price they had extracted from Bri­tain was that “na­tive af­fairs” would be strictly a do­mes­tic is­sue, in which Lon­don was not to in­ter­vene.

For black South Africans, the hard les­son was the same as it had been dur­ing the Boer War: sup­port for Bri­tain would bring few re­wards.

Plaut is se­nior re­search fel­low, Horn of Africa and South­ern Africa, In­sti­tute of Com­mon­wealth Stud­ies, School of Ad­vanced Study.

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