If South Africa is ever finally to fulfil the structural reforms promised to bondholders, and not in some distant future, the protests by Eskom workers provide just a glimpse of what people mean when they talk about the "pain" of following through with fundamental reforms. The toughened stance by the company's board and management on wage increases is not something we've seen in the public space for as long as I can remember. It's a stance that, more than anything, is informed by a new truth, namely that Eskom's future is no longer in the hands of our politicians — that esteemed class — but rather in the hands of its creditors. These are lenders who are now unwilling to fund an institution that refuses to face up to its challenges of shrinking revenues and ever-rising costs. And when lenders turn their back on a company, it's disastrous, as in the case of one-time construction giant, Basil Read. From a company worth R2.7-billion more than a decade ago in the run-up to South Africa's...

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