1 February 2008

Can of Worms

SACP GS Dr Blade Nzimande has written a firm but gentlemanly open letter to the proprietors of the City Press newspaper, which disgraced itself last Sunday with a shamelessly fictional account that was run on its front page. See the first linked item, below.

This edition of the Communist University has been produced in “load-shedding” conditions. Last year’s power cuts coincided with Eskom’s pitch to “Nersa” (the national electricity regulator) for a price rise of 18%, but stopped after Nersa agreed a 14% hike. The Christmas holiday period was then blackout-free. This was already prima facie evidence of a kind of terrorism and of a kind of coup d’etat by the power generator/distributor so as to increase money flows to their benefit. In the words of the linked letter (below) to yesterday’s Business Day, written about the new round of cuts initiated on 14 January, Eskom was deliberately intending to teach government (and the rest of us) a lesson about who is in charge.

In response to the posting of this letter to the publicly accessible
DEBATE” forum, David Hallowes responded with a message, three paragraphs of which are reproduced here [DME = Department of Minerals and Energy]:

“An earlier post had the headline "We are asking for our power to be given back." It never was our power. It was always Eskom's & it was always in the service of cheap power to the mines and industry. Following the 98 Energy White Paper, Eskom fought the unbundling plans, not in the name of public ownership of utilities (& certainly not democratic control), but to preserve its empire. It would happily have privatised on condition that it could convert a public monopoly into a private one.

”Ironically, in the late 80s, senior Eskom execs feared that a future ANC govt would 'nationalise' it. At the time, it ran the DME's power division (i.e. it effectively was government). Arguably it still does run the DME though perhaps less directly. It retains a tight hold on energy information and the determination of technology choices. Those choices have mostly been for mega-plants - coal and nuclear - compatible with centralised corporate control and enthusiastically endorsed by govt.

”The privatisation agenda was certainly an ideological reflection of Gear but also aimed at loosening Eskom's monopoly, its secretiveness and its hold over govt. Nersa was established in terms of the 98 policy on the presumption of privatisation. In the development state context, Nersa is whittling away at Eskom's secretiveness and its political power. If it is indeed the case that Eskom has manufactured the crisis, it serves to put Nersa in its place as well as to overturn the pricing decision. (While Nersa represents itself as the consumer's champion, it is quite likely that the consumer that it has in mind is industry. But, its planned audit of Eskom plants could turn up some interesting results - and hopefully some canaries singing.)”

This is the can of worms called Eskom. Meanwhile, in a conventionally bourgeois piece of economics, Dawie Roodt in the same edition of Business Day called it as it looks from where he sits. Heads must roll, he says. He also unfortunately believes in the “hidden hand of the market”. Nevertheless, we are beginning to get more thorough criticism of Eskom in the public realm, and a scary but necessary picture is emerging.

The next two items are concerned largely with the Scorpions. These are another Barry Sergeant “Fear and Loathing” column, plus an interview with Gwede Mantashe. People who now say they do not know why the Scorpions must go are being disingenuous.

Finally we have a notice for an event on Monday in KZN. It is arranged in a way that allows people from all over the country to take part using “skype”. It also happens to feature SACP CC Member Eric “Stalin” Mtshali. Please support this event, Comrades.

In a late addition to this post, please note the TAC statement, and appeal for funds, in relation to the police action against Zimbabwean refugees at the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg, linked below.

Click on these links:

Open letter to management of City Press, SACP GS Blade Nzimande (1273 words)

Eskom doing an Enron on SA, Andre Becker, Letters, B Day (325 words)

Why emergency plan is no way to limit pain, Roodt, B Day (1235 words)

SA No 1 story, Barry Sergeant, Fear and Loathing, Moneyweb (1838 words)

Judges must earn respect, Mantashe interview, M and G (1289 words)

Political Economy Seminar, CCS Durban and skype, 4 February 2008 (Notice)

TAC Condemns Police Raid on Central Methodist Church (615 words)

Coming Events


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