A couple of months ago, as another bout of acute load-shedding became a daily reality, Eskom took the rare step of alerting us that such blackouts will persist throughout the winter. This statement, from a company that has previously claimed sabotage, broken conveyor belts and even wet coal as triggers for load-shedding, came as a painful but honest concession.

The increased demand during the winter season has always been a pressure point for Eskom. Theoretically, higher demand requires many more generators to be active and in service. According to Eskom, however, its maintenance record — which is poor — has increased the propensity for unplanned breakdowns...

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