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The rolling blackouts imposed by Eskom last week were reminiscent of 1983, when the utility was challenged by serious drought and lost about 3,000MW of generating capacity. Some three-fifths of that was attributable to the drought and the remainder to unreliable supplies from the Cahora Bassa scheme in Mozambique. PW Botha and his National Party (NP) colleagues were extremely irritated by the blackout, which followed divisions in the party that had led to the breakaway of the Conservative Party. Like the ANC today, the NP had a lot on its plate at the time, including a political transition that led to the institutionalisation of the tricameral parliament, the energy crisis and an underperforming economy that had shrunk by 1.8% in 1983. Faced with by-elections in 1984 and high interest rates, specifically on mortgages held by Afrikaner working-class voters, an angry constituency as a result of blackouts and political reforms, NP candidate Piet Welgemoed attracted 6,053 votes, against...

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