Tuesday 15 January 2008

The light at the end of the tunnel just went out ... but it will be on again in about 3 hours, we hope

There were another 2 major power outages in Johannesburg today. And it is not acceptable! The cost to the economy must be in the billions, and what really amazes me is that there is no communication about this crises in any of the newspapers. Surely the electricity company should let the public know when the next "power shedding" event will take place so that we can plan and be prepared. And what does it mean "load shedding" or "power shedding". This is really a polite term for a %^$#$#$!$%.

I keep hearing things like "Welcome to Africa". No one seems to be angry; everyone is making jokes about how we are living in the third world and we need to get used to it. This can't be!

This kind of thing is doing more damage than just economic. I am hearing more and more skilled people talk of immigration. The electricity nightmare fuels this sentiment and it is not good for South Africa. Someone made a joke with me this evening, while we were in the dark, talking on the phone, that this is a conspiracy to get whites to leave the country. Well, jokes aside, people are leaving the country, and this power problem is not helping.

The cynics are on the rise, and so is the traffic. It took me 2 hours today to get to a meeting. It used to take 20 minutes. All the traffic lights on the William Nicol were out and there wasn't a policeman in sight. The other joke I keep hearing is that the light in the tunnel just went out. Well, as you can see, the power did come on a short while ago and I am writing this VLOG to let off some steam. This really isn't funny though.

Posted by a very anxious Ronnie Apteker


Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Apteker

Firstly, please forgive my rather long comment. I do not have a blog of my own and seem to have gotten overly enthusiastic in my reply to yours.

You are absolutely right. This power situation is not funny.
Well……… maybe a little.

The truth is that I am actually starting to enjoy my “time outs”...the times where I cannot cook, cannot work on my computer or reply to e-mails, and nobody can blame it on my laziness!

I do agree with you.....the traffic situation is downright dangerous and businesses are losing millions. If nothing is done and this gets worse or lasts indefinitely then we may even face the risk of bankrupting the country. The PR and communications people in charge of this should be fired. Nobody is thinking any different, including the people making jokes about it.

If we want to look for a deep philosophical reason, perhaps the person who came up with this whole concept was a woman whose husband spends all his time with his e-mail, his play station, his blackberry etc and none of his time with his kids or her.

So maybe the real lesson behind all of this is that we should learn to remember what life was like before it was electrified. I offer my parents as an example. They are both workaholics, and use computers all day, and most nights. If they are “load shedded”, my mother uses this time to exercise. My father usually does some gardening if it’s during the day, or reads a book – something he would never do if he had his computers working. They keep a thermos flask filled with boiled water all the time and have battery power lamps all over their house.

The official explanation is that the infrastructure is overloaded and they simply do not have enough power. I have spoken to many people working at Eskom, City Power and the companies that they sub contract to do their repairs. I have been shown the inside of a few substations. The equipment is old and damaged and needs to be replaced. Eskom do not have money to replace it and so they keep repairing it. The repairs will not hold, and are simply band aids on a broken leg (that is from the mouths of the electricians and boilermakers doing the actual repairs in the substations whom, by the way, are overworked, underpaid, over stressed and get yelled at by complete strangers every day. It’s not their fault!)

This situation should have been addressed years ago. Unfortunately it WASN’T, and the bottom line is that now we are where we are(as Dr Phil would say)
There simply isn’t enough power, and nobody wants to cut down, especially not those office buildings who keep their lights and air-conditioning on all night.

The important question: What can we do about it (besides immigrate of course - but that’s only a solution if you are white apparently? Black people get load shedded too, how about that for a bumper sticker)

If you are a generator salesman, a candle salesman, a gas appliance salesman, an inventor, an engineer or some other kind of power expert, then you can get working on developing a safe, reliable, affordable alternative.

That way people will not need to use so much power (which is what is being asked of us anyway). Maybe we can even get really creative and make some jobs out of it.

If you, like me, are none of the above, then here is what I suggest:

As is human nature, I have learned to adapt. If I cannot get my work done during the day, I simply do it very late at night – funnily enough, I have never had my power turned off between 1am and 4 am – the time when most people are sleeping.

My brother has a gas stove and fireplace that work perfectly when there is no electricity.
I know a few people who have bought generators, some for their businesses and others because they cannot bear to miss Isidingo and Days of our lives. I cannot afford it, and that doesn’t really bother me.

I have heard many outraged people say that electricity is a basic necessity, not a privilege. I disagree. Not only do we have many people in rural areas, squatter camps and townships living without any at all right now, but even I, a spoilt Joburg princess, have survived many months without it while backpacking through Africa.

To respond to your question about people making jokes and accepting this power situation, I don’t believe they accept it. I certainly do not accept, condone or even ignore it. However………….

I am not in a position to offer any helpful, productive solution, so I learn to adapt my life, and ask the people that can change it to do so.

There are many more tragic events and things to be upset about, and some of them are things that I CAN do something about. Why waste good emotional outrage on something I cannot control? I would rather save it for something where it would be useful, and in the meantime I will enjoy my glass of wine by candle light and my early night, since I am told my power will be turned off in half an hour.

Thanks for your indulgence :)