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Picture: 123RF/TEBNAD
Picture: 123RF/TEBNAD

Ebrahim Harvey is spot on in suggesting the ANC must be indicted for “turning off the lights” (“Chasing darkness — how the ANC captured Eskom and turned out the lights”, May 3). However, he hints at the failure of African leadership by suggesting that Eskom was formed to serve the interests of white people, while the ANC is not serving the African majority. That charge would be unfair.

To say the government of the Union of SA was more intent on delivering electricity to whites than the ANC is to all black people misses the context. The difference between now and then is the spirit of the times. The 1910s was a decade exhilarated by the prospect and profit to be gained from electricity, a marvellous new technology, especially for deep-level mining. Only thus could the economy industrialise and a young rural nation secure its revenues.

Also, it was a decade in which the interventionist state had a high standing in policy circles. But, most critically, Eskom was needed to stamp technical uniformity on matters such as voltage and connections over an unruly and disjointed network. But Eskom’s undoing comes in a very different decade. Electricity in the 2010s was no longer the technological marvel stirring our state’s aspirations. By then electricity had been reduced to a mundane political “right”.

The ANC’s leading motive was one of entitlement and correcting historic injustices, under which the ethos of illegal connections, serving oneself before the nation and so on were cemented as there are no repercussions for perpetrators. The “minimalist state” is still in the ascendancy. In such a climate it is a fool’s dream to think the ANC can switch the lights back on.

What is needed is to identify today’s great novelty and build on that. Imagine a future in which all domestic, retail and travel energy needs are sourced from small-scale, locally generated renewable ventures and gadgets, at low voltage and no cost. Nuclear fusion might even make industrial power supply super cheap. This exciting future is becoming ever more real, yet underpins none of government’s pronouncements or initiatives.

Jens Kuhn, Cape Town

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