Some light at the end of the tunnel
For the government to have a lightbulb moment, you would think, first, there would have to be electricity in the national power grid. On the other hand, perhaps the fact that SA is at the stage where Eskom is putting together a “philosophy of load shedding” (this is true – you can’t make this up) means the government has finally tumbled to the realisation the country is deep into a crisis.
The ANC’s lightbulb moment has been to acknowledge, finally, that if SA sticks to Eskom alone as a power supplier, then we are all doomed.
So, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe dropped what many experts consider a policy bombshell at a mining investment conference this week.
He announced that, in future, mines will be able to generate their own electricity, thereby reducing demand on the crumbling national grid.
But, even more startling, Mantashe said government would allow proposals for an additional, privately run, electricity generation company, or companies, to be set up to augment Eskom supplies.
Although that is not privatisation of the existing Eskom setup, it is the next best thing and should be welcomed, because it means there will be a modicum of competition in the power supply market for the first time.
It also will increase the push for the full, capitalist solution for Eskom, which is privatisation.
Already, other state-owned enterprises which started out dominating their sectors, have experienced serious competition from private companies … South African Airways and the Post Office are two examples.
So, the move to include the private sector – with its unquestioned better efficiencies – in major parts of the economic reconstruction programme which is desperately needed, is a sign of hope for the future.
We hope we are not proved wrong.