The emperor again

22nd July 2022

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy


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There is a story about an emperor who is told by his staff that he is wearing a very beautiful jacket and that the jacket is more beautiful than any of the other jackets that he has worn. They say to him that the moment the jacket is put on, it looks unusual and is fantastic and all admire him and his beautiful jacket.

In point of fact, in the story, the emperor is naked, but the two confidence tricksters who are supplying him with the jacket convince him that he is wearing the most fabulous clothes and anyone who can’t see it is a fool. This story was written by Hans Christian Anderson in 1837, which is quite some time ago.

Moving now to the present day, we have a situation where many people pretend that there is nothing wrong with the South African power system. In point of fact, the South African power system has never been in as poor a condition as now. The power is off for up to eight hours a day; it is winter, and people are cold. The power outages cause factories and businesses to be without electricity, which is definitely bad for business. A lot of businesses have generators, as do many households, but, throughout the country, there are a large number of people who just do not have electricity for extended periods of time.

We slipped into this situation firstly from having no electrical outages, apart from the usual, and then to increasing electrical outages when the Eskom staff decided to go on strike for an increase in wages. Since Eskom staff are among the highest paid in South Africa (if not the whole of Africa), for them to go on strike shows cynicism of an astounding degree – for a worker to be earning of the order of R20 000 a month when the sole job is to sweep the floor shows bias of an incredible degree. Nevertheless, on strike the Eskom staff went, and, when that happened, the whole country immediately experienced the worst power outages in the living memory of South Africa.

It is hard to imagine the mentality and greed of any group of people who perform such an act as causing a power outage in winter. What do they want?

However, very fortunately, like every cloud that has a proverbial result, in this case this drives South Africa towards being a country which, if they go along the path that I am hoping they will follow, they will also have a proverbial result. It is the change of the power supply system in South Africa from its present system to a new system which will result in South Africans being able to convert to a dc supply system.

In the house, power will still be supplied by ac, but the actual power supply, the wires or cables that supply it, will become a dc supply. Between the ac and dc supply systems, there will be some kind of system. This will be a box which links the two supply systems. This type of dc supply system with a suitable control is very difficult for anyone to bypass or steal.

The result will be that the theft of electricity, which currently is one of the main causes of the present situation, will largely disappear. In fact, the theft of electricity will decline to such a degree that the power supply will improve markedly.

Not only that – without power shortages, Eskom will no longer have the ability to force people to pay increased rates. Is all of this possible? From a practical point of view, this will require money, which is in short supply. The question is: What do you do as an alternative? One can hardly continue to try to run a country without a reliable power system. But spending money and changing to a new system is like the emperor who realises that he is happily naked and continues forward regardless. The change is possible. We just have to do it.

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor



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