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Peter Bruce Editor-at-large & columnist


Try, if it amuses you, to imagine what President Cyril Ramaphosa's stomach did when an aide whispered to him on Monday that Eskom was going into stage 4 load-shedding. Or what his heart rate did. Or the swear word he repeated.

The shock would have been total, the jelly in the knees severe. He's a decent guy and he's sucked up enough bad news in an action-packed life, but the imminent and total collapse of all economic activity in the country he rules would have eclipsed just about everything else for sheer terror.

To an extent it's his own fault. Ramaphosa is famously distracted. Like many people his age (I am his age) he verges on attention deficit disorder. When he was in business he was so busy doing deals and politics and saving the world, he developed a reputation for leaving all his many board meetings early. “I do apologise Mr chairman but may I please be excused, I have to rush to” whatever. I saw him do it more than once to a board I used to be invited to now and then. The big apologetic smile. How could you refuse? It was Brian Joffe at Bidvest, they say, who made him stop. You're either on the board or you're not, was the message. Ramaphosa needs a Joffe now to (metaphorically) slap him around a little and get him to really focus. It is impossible to exaggerate the technical and financial trouble Eskom is in. And at least we can count the debt. We can't count the bad welds, the leaks, the rusting, cheap Chinese spares that Eskom engineers have been reduced to buying to keep its "fl...

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