SA entered a technical recession in the past quarter, after four years of slow and precarious growth. The downturn has many causes, but one is obvious, entirely domestic and in theory fixable: state agencies that sometimes, it seems, can’t be bothered when something in the economy is going wrong. Take Eskom’s resolve to shut off electricity to municipalities that fell far behind on their bills. This is a no-win solution: businesses and consumers are harmed, city revenues decline further, the economy takes a hit, and that means Eskom’s sales will fall further. A state agency is intentionally inflicting damage on the economy and society to cover its bills. Surely there’s a more constructive solution? Eskom is mostly acting against declining Free State mining towns and former labour-sending regions. But in August, it announced shut-offs in Emfuleni, which owes Eskom R600m. This could block industrial development. Emfuleni contributes 1.3% of SA’s population and GDP, but 2.4% of manufac...

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