South Africa is currently being gripped by a devastating energy crisis with homes and businesses suffering blackouts for up to twelve hours a day. The failure of the country’s national power utility—Eskom—to meet electricity demand has been ongoing since 2007, and is now in its worst period. Many reasons are proffered for how this predicament arose, prominent among them being the widespread corruption connected to the ruling African National Congress’ system of patronage.
Successive leaders have been brought in to steer the sinking ship ashore, and all of them have veered adrift. The latest failure is Andre De Ruyter’s, who resigned from Eskom in December last year, and then stepped down with immediate effect after conducting an explosive interview on South African television that revealed the extent of looting at the organization. De Ruyter—whose beginnings were in the private sector—was widely viewed as a steady hand at the wheel. During his tenure, a consensus rose in favor of Eskom’s complete privatization. This would finalize a process inaugurated in 1983 when the apartheid government corporatized Eskom.
But, is this the only way? Can there be a public pathway towards rebuilding Eskom’s capacity and decarbonizing South Africa’s energy sector? On the podcast this week, Will chats to Andile Zulu, a writer and regular contributor to Africa Is a Country, who is also the energy democracy officer at the Alternative Information Development Centre in Cape Town, South Africa.