People who are hallucinating can act and talk as if in another world, ignoring what is actually happening around them. The major state-owned enterprises (SOEs) seem to be in a similar dream state. Virtually all rely on business models developed for long-gone circumstances that are far from current realities. The outcome has been a series of financial and governance crises. Eskom stands out, both for its importance to the economy – SA has long depended on cheap, coal-fired energy — and for its increasingly obvious distance from reality. Eskom demand has fallen almost 10% since 2011 as electricity prices more than doubled in constant rand while the metals boom that started in the early 2000s came to an end. Eskom’s paradoxical response was to pursue double-digit price increases to sustain its massive expansion plans. Similarly, facing pressure to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions it avoided getting into renewables itself, then tried to shut private suppliers out of the grid. These manoe...

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