Eskom: It’s all the fault of GEAR!

Statement of the SACP on the recent power outages, January 22, 2008

The SACP is extremely concerned about the current power cuts that have hit our country and are to continue for the next six or seven years, as result of the lad shedding by Eskom. This, we are told, is due to electricity consumption beyond the capacity of Eskom. As the SACP we do not celebrate this, but this is direct outcome of the GEAR policies adopted by government in 1996, driving a macro-economic policy that did not only shy away from developmental investments, but also, earlier, had planned to privatize key parastatals, including Eskom.

As the SACP we have always said that the triumphalist claims that GEAR policies led to savings that has enabled us to now have more money to spend, including a budget surplus, is a hollow victory. The impact of not spending on infrastructure in the early years of our democracy is coming back to haunt us; what is the point of savings if in the process you do not build capacity to spend? This is the price that South Africa is paying for a macro-economic strategy that was not developmental and aiming at privatizing state owned entities including Eskom.

The recent power blackouts are also just but one example of the extent to which capitalist accumulation squanders non-renewable resources, thus proving that in the long term capitalism is not sustainable and poses a serious threat to the survival of humanity.

The one positive side of this crisis is that the middle classes and the rich have started to experience what the working class has been experiencing over a long period of time about unreliable and intermittent electric supply or no electricity at all. What is more worrying however is that it appears that the current load shedding seems to be highly selective and discriminatory, with the poor areas experiencing longer and more frequent power cuts than the rich suburban areas.

The SACP therefore calls for a better and well managed load shedding process. This would include an open, transparent and an equitable load shedding protocol that does not favour the rich at the expense of the poor.  We also need to be informed about the criteria used in the whole load shedding process. We further reiterate our objection to the planned massive tariffs increases by Telkom. As it is now the poor are paying more and actually subsidizing the rich. We hereby call for differentiated tariffs, and for those consuming large amounts of electricity, like the smelters, pay more for electricity.

We further support the call for a strategy on promoting use of appliances that are electricity-saving, including making it compulsory for use of energy saving light bulbs.  The SACP further calls upon government, as part of our industrial strategy, to plan for and incentivize new local industry producing such appliances and bulbs, also as part of our job creation strategy, and to lessen our dependence on imports for fridges, stoves and washing machines.

We support the ANC's call for government to immediately come up with an emergency national plan to address this issue.

The SACP will continue to engage its allies and the broader progressive forces to wage a mass driven and inclusive energy saving campaign. The SACP will also use this campaign as a means to educate the workers and the poor of our country about the dangers posed by capitalist accumulation to their own welfare, and the extent to which our resources are being used to enrich a few at the expense of the majority.

Issued by the SACP