Lightbulb moment, ANC ... we’re in the dark physically, not ...

Ideas

Lightbulb moment, ANC ... we’re in the dark physically, not mentally

Sadly, it’s the party’s top leadership that wants us to believe it’s not at fault for the catastrophic cock-up that’s Eskom

Columnist
New finance minister Enoch Godongwana managed to sound very frustrated about Eskom boss André de Ruyter and the frequency of load-shedding at the weekend.
CLAWS OUT New finance minister Enoch Godongwana managed to sound very frustrated about Eskom boss André de Ruyter and the frequency of load-shedding at the weekend.
Image: Esa Alexander

Just a fortnight after it tried to pass yet another buck and rolled its clown car into a ditch, the ANC has launched its campaign for 2024 with the slogan: “It Wasn’t Me Because I Wasn’t There, And Even If I Was, I Didn’t Do It, It Was Bigger Boys, I Don’t Know Their Names, They Were Gone Before You Came, But I Swear It Happened.”

I’m exaggerating, of course. That could never be an ANC slogan because if someone on the NEC is going to read that many words all in a row, they damned well better start with “Burn after reading” and end with “Full indemnity from prosecution”.

The campaigning, however, does seem to have started in earnest, heralded by repeated promises that the party has learnt important lessons from its electoral fiasco two weeks ago.

These lessons, we are supposed to believe, comprise a sort of a Damascene moment, whereby the ANC has been blinded by a flash of reality, fallen off its majority and will now become a humble servant.

In practice, however, the party has learnt only one lesson: if you can’t deliver because you’re not really a government, but you badly want to be re-elected in 2024 because working is for suckers, then you need to spend every minute between now and then putting distance between yourself and the biggest and most reviled scapegoat you can find.

Enter Eskom, bleating at stage left, dragged onto the stage by a posse of theatrically outraged ANC gaslighters.

'Why is it that we can’t get a solid answer?' asked Jessie Duarte, the person who regularly vilifies journalists for trying to get solid answers from her.

It’s not a new idea, of course. The party has been pretending that Eskom is someone else’s problem since forever, blithely ignoring the now-famous 1998 White Paper, which explained that SA would have an energy crisis within a decade if the state continued to treat Eskom the same way it treats the country’s roads, railways, hospitals and schools.

It was how, for example, Cyril Ramaphosa could be put in charge of fixing Eskom in 2014, fail to fix it, then tell African heads of state in 2019 that he was “quite angry” and “shocked” that the power utility was still broken.

Yes, denial and neglect are nothing new. Which is why I wasn’t very surprised when the ANC’s Jessie Duarte enlisted them again a few days before the local government election.

“Why is it that we can’t get a solid answer?” asked the person who regularly vilifies journalists for trying to get solid answers from her. “Why is this thing not able to be resolved?” demanded someone who has been central to the endlessly unresolved crisis that is SA.

It was nothing but trash, of course, the sort of intellectual and political litter that flies around and sticks to fences just before elections, then slowly blows away.

But on Sunday it was still there and the person spreading the trash around wasn’t some hollowed-out party hack like Duarte. It was our new finance minister, Enoch Godongwana, revealing via the Sunday Times that Ramaphosa has decided to mainstream denial about Eskom; to promote the big lie that the ANC isn’t responsible for its most catastrophic screw-up; and no doubt to amplify this lie as the tent pole around which the ANC will hoist its wretched offering in 2024.

God, if only telephones existed and someone had De Ruyter’s phone number, and someone was in control of the country who could, I don’t know, phone him and ask him to explain what was going on.

To his credit, Godongwana read his lines well, managing to sound terribly frustrated as he fretted about Eskom boss André de Ruyter and the frequency of load-shedding. God, if only telephones existed and someone had De Ruyter’s phone number, and someone was in control of the country who could, I don’t know, phone him and ask him to explain what was going on.

What was peculiar, however, was how much Ramaphosa’s new talking points sounded as if they’d been plagiarised from Radical Economic Transformation Twitter, which has been denouncing De Ruyter for months as a stooge of White Blah Blah Blah, brought in to collapse Eskom so it can be snapped up by Anton Rupert and Queen Elizabeth and Bill Gates, because obviously those guys really want to plunge billions into a broken, coal-guzzling energy company just as renewables get going.

Their main argument, however, is that everything was better under Jacob Zuma and Brian Molefe. And I can understand why they’d think that. When you’ve driven off a cliff and the car is in free fall, you become weightless for a few moments. Look, you cry! I’m flying! I’m Superman! By driving us off this cliff I have gained superpowers! How pleasant a thing it is to float here, freed from the bonds of Earth and the burdens of things like budgets and maintenance and reality! How delight —

And then your car lands and you lose the power of flight, and everything becomes much, much less pleasant; and just before you undergo Radical Metabolic Transformation you think how sinister gravity is — do we even know what Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are building in the atmosphere? — and how that rock that’s racing up to meet you has obviously been planted there by enemies of progress ...

On Twitter it can be amusing, or at least morbidly fascinating, to see people work so hard to disconnect cause from effect and insist negligent fools were titans of industry.

When it comes from a president and his cabinet, however, it is depressing and alarming.

Still, I suspect we’ll have to get used to it because it’s all the ANC has left. Well, that and Jessie Duarte.

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