Shedding loads and spreading lies

Eskom has been fucking with us for years and there’s no end in sight. Here’s a letter I wrote to the boss of the power utility in 2011. This was before the Guptas even got their claws into it.

 

Dear Sir,

This is the fourth time I am writing this letter to you. The first three times you turned the power off before I could press save. I was angry before. I am now incensed.

I live in Cape Town, supposedly one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but what the hell good does that do when I can’t see anything for most of the time? Oh, sure, the sun still works, but how much longer can it be before you find a way to switch that off too?

The first time Eskom plunged the province into darkness, you kept very quiet and hoped nobody had noticed. Truth is, we weren’t too bothered. Unless you were on a life support machine. But it was a novelty. The power cut forced married couples to go to bed early where, without the option of reading or television, they were left with no alternative but to have sex. Apparently this helps to keep couples together. Or at least from killing each other.

Then you turned the power off several more times over the next few weeks. Suddenly it wasn’t such fun. Weeping women, saturated with sex, begged their husbands to sell up and emigrate to a country with electricity.

People began going hungry, fridges defrosted, beers got warm. The only thing moving in the streets were four men on horseback riding from town to town shouting in what sounded like Aramaic.

You, in the meantime, denied that anything was wrong. “Relax,” you said. “Everything’s under control.” The rolling blackouts got worse. Suburb after suburb, town after town, became engulfed in darkness.

Your men in suits went into a huddle. “The masses are revolting. What are we going to call this thing?” A middle-ranking executive blew his chances of ever getting promoted by replying: “An unmitigated fucking disaster?” But the truth is not something to be bandied about at times like these, is it?

“Let’s call it load shedding,” you said brightly. “That makes it sound like we are getting rid of something that we have too much of. People will want to thank us.”

Apparently not, though. Instead, people wanted to hunt you down and ram a syringe full of sodium pentathol, or any kind of truth serum, into your fat lying capitalist arse.

Once the ANC had pointed out that your incompetence was going to lose them control of Cape Town, which it subsequently did, you said sorry in a very small voice and pretended to cry.

The then public enterprises minister, Alec Erwin, felt so bad for you that he made up a story about a bunch of imaginary warlocks throwing a bolt into one of the Koeberg nuclear power station’s generators, damaging a rotor and causing a serious power shortfall in the Western Cape.

Since Koeberg is your baby, and a potentially lethal one at that, the last thing you wanted was the government suggesting that just anyone could walk up to the facility and gain entrance by scaling a wall. Oops, sorry, Greenpeace already did that several years ago.

So you dismissed Erwin’s claim. Erwin, under the mistaken impression that you were right behind him, quickly denied ever mentioning the word “sabotage” or even knowing where Koeberg was. “Look,” said Erwin, “I don’t even use electricity. I’m a gas man, myself.”

So not only were we surviving on tins of baked beans heated over cheap candles, but we now also knew that our shivering bodies could be incinerated in a boiling tsunami of radioactive particles at any moment.

Then, once businesses hit the magical mark of R500-million in losses, you began publishing a load shedding schedule in the local newspapers. But even then, you never lost your keen sense of humour. I bet you found it hard to stifle a giggle when you tricked people into thinking that they would be without power from 2.30pm to 4.30pm on Wednesday, only for the lights to go out from 7pm to midnight on Thursday. You did this, with a twinkle in your eye, in towns around the Western Cape. And sometimes even in the Northern Cape, although it’s not quite as much of a laugh for you because the folk in Kimberley don’t even notice these things.

Sometimes, in the middle of a spot of load shedding, you would switch the power back on and then, a few seconds later, turn it off. What’s the point of earning R13-million a year if you can’t have a bit of fun? If you have the ability to make millions of people go “yay!” and, moments later, “fuuuck!” in perfect synchronisation, then you should go right ahead and do it. I know I would.

In the unlikely event that you decide to do the decent thing and resign, I would like to be the first to propose that Homer Simpson takes your place. He has worked at the Springfield Nuclear Power Station and will cause far less mayhem than you already have.

Apart from the loose bolt, short circuits caused by mist and soot, an unusually high tide at Llandudno beach and the gay pride parade, the power crisis is the result of you believing in 1998 (accurately, as it turned out), that South Africa was doomed to become just another corrupt debt-ridden crime-ravaged basket case and consequently there was no point in maintaining your power stations or even building new ones because they would just be taken over by squatters or stripped down and sold on the black market.

In the intervening years the population has grown and a lot more boys have reached drinking age. More shebeens means more fridges to keep more beers cold. Now there is simply not enough electricity to keep all those new fridges running. This is how countries descend into civil war.

Now you are asking us to help you by bathing in cold water, cooking over primus stoves, washing our clothes in the river and eating by candlelight. It’s fine for the majority, but we white folk are simply not accustomed to this lifestyle.

Vote Homer Simpson.

Yours truly,

Ben Trovato

 

Stayin’ Alive – South Africa’s new disco anthem

The Americans sent men to the moon in 1969 but we can’t work out how to put our traffic lights on a separate circuit.

And now, on top of the electricity shedding, there’s water shedding.

Stop complaining. This isn’t Syria. If you don’t like it, emigrate. You needn’t go far. I’ve just got back from the Mozambican fishing village of Tofo. They never have power cuts. And when you turn the tap on, water comes out. Okay, you probably shouldn’t drink it, but their beer is so cheap and yummy that you don’t have to.

If you don’t want to emigrate because of work commitments and … oh, please, who are you are kidding. If you don’t want to emigrate because no other country will have you, then you are going to have to learn to survive.

Funnily enough, not that it’s remotely funny, those who will find it easiest to survive is the generation or two that know their way around candles, paraffin stoves and river water. It’s as if the National Party helped prepare them for today.

In times of crisis, people pull together. It doesn’t happen here, but I’m sure it does in other parts of the world. Here we turn feral, snarling and lashing out at anyone who doesn’t talk or look like us. Or drives a Volvo. This is as it should be.

Motivated purely by altruism and definitely not a desire to profit from misfortune, some companies are taking to the Internet with tips on what to do when the lights go out and the taps run dry.

Many of these helpful hints seem to be aimed at people who were raised by wolves and who are only now learning to live among humans. One website provides examples of “non-electrical illuminating devices”. What luck. I would never have come up with torches and candles on my own.

It also suggests that you invite friends over and build “a nice old-fashioned bonfire” after which you can “play charades or cards or even share ghost stories”. Yes, playing charades during load shedding is a brilliant idea. “I’ve got it! You’re … hello? Are you still there?” As for terrifying stories, just read the front page of any one of our daily newspapers.

“You could even pass the time by having long conversations with your friends or engaging in political debates.” Talking in the dark? What a revolutionary concept. I wouldn’t, however, recommend initiating a political debate in a room where you can’t see anyone’s hands. Not in South Africa.

“You could even use the fire to cook.” Really? I always thought fires were only good for warming one’s goolies and spitting into.

“You could even host a ‘dance in the dark disco’ if you have the right equipment, such as cell phones, iPods, mp3 players, laptops, and especially battery-powered speakers.” First, you can’t have a disco without a glitter ball and someone selling ecstasy. Second, load shedding is a reminder of the future that waits like a ravening beast from hell. Nobody but crazy people, morphine addicts and small children should, when the power fails, be in the mood for flailing about the lounge while Stayin’ Alive claws its way out of a Nokia 1200.

And this gem: “Remember – our ancestors survived without electricity for thousands of years, so why can’t we do the same?” Our ancestors also wore no clothes, never worked a day in their lives and had rough sex with random Neanderthals out in the open, so why can’t we do the same? Actually, there have been times I’ve done that.

Then there is Solidariteit. These shrieking liberals have come up with what they call a Noordplan: 2 Weke Sonder Eskom. Their emergency plan is not yet available in English. It’s almost as if they only want Afrikaans-speaking people to survive two weeks without Eskom.

Their tagline reads, “Doen jou eie ding.” The hippies have been saying this for years. Do your own thing, man. Far out. It’s good to see the reactionary right finally catching on.

Their plan appears to be based on Armageddon as imagined in the Pythonesque Book of Revelation. Stockpiling of the kind that hasn’t been seen since Nelson Mandela was released comes highly recommended. You will also need to test a few alternative routes between work and home. I don’t know why. Perhaps they have inside information that Satan intends sending his devil mole-souls to burrow beneath our major freeways and collapse them at rush hour.

And, naturally, this: “Keep a weapon on you. It can be anything from a gun to pepper spray.” I don’t know about you, but I want a gun that first shoots pepper spray and then, while the suspect is screaming and scrabbling at his eyes, shoots a bullet into a part of his brain that turns him from a psychopath into a poet. That would be awesome. Unless the bullet clipped the wrong synapse and turned him from a poet into a psychopath. What the hell. Violence isn’t an exact science.

Solidariteit also suggests we get a two-way radio to stay in touch with our neighbourhood watch. Imagine if one day someone invents a communications device that makes walkie-talkies obsolete. Yes, I know this kind of heretical talk can get an oke burnt at the stake. But still. One can wonder.

“Find out if any amateur radio operators live in your area.” An amateur radio operator, as far as I know, is someone who struggles to tell the difference between Ukhozi FM and Radio Sonder Grense. I can’t see how this will help when the four horsemen pull up at the last KFC for the last Streetwise 5.

“Connect with a local community structure.” They suggest Afriforum. There’s no mention of the ANC Youth League.

“Make sure everyone in the family has enough to drink.” This is the best part of their plan by far. A family that drinks together stays together.

“Be frugal with your money and draw extra cash if you still can.” Where the hell are we now? Greece? There are also other things besides money that you can use to acquire stuff. They suggest using cigarettes to trade. How very poor white. When trading with the natives, I suppose one can use shiny beads and packets of salt.

To relax, you can “go through old photo albums”. Perhaps this is how some cultures relax, but I can’t do it without crying like a baby. Or you can “repack boxes of old stuff”. That’s got to be a barrel of laughs. I shall try it when I tire of putting scorpions down my trousers.

Okay, that’s enough about the lunatic fringe. I have some tips of my own.

Most importantly, be prepared. “Be Prepared” is also the motto of the Boy Scout movement. I don’t know what the motto of the Girl Guides is. Probably “Be Careful”. It was in 1907 that Robert Baden-Powell came up with the idea of dressing young boys in tight khaki shirts and shorts and taking them off to remote areas to “camp”. No wonder he said they should be prepared.

Let’s not get distracted. In the context of Eskom and other shadowy organisations that control our resources, we need to be prepared to go without. It’s only going to get worse now that god won’t make it rain and the regulatory body has refused Eskom’s request for a 25% increase in tariffs. They’re going to be sulky and vindictive and will lash out willfully when it comes to pulling the switches. I don’t know what god’s plan is. There’s a very good chance he doesn’t have one.

Some say you should keep a torch handy. That’s rubbish. These are the kind of people who are afraid to drink and drive and look before they cross the road. Torches are gay. Live dangerously. Buy a box of matches and a dozen military flares. You’ll need a flare gun or a good throwing arm. A flare will light up your entire street, making you popular among those of your neighbours whose homes survive the fire.

Some people think candles are romantic, but they’re not. Candles are only romantic if they fall over while you’re passed out and they set your house alight, allowing you to collect a huge insurance payout and move to the Bahamas where you fall in love with a dusky heiress to an oil fortune.

I’m with Solidariteit on the need to stockpile, but don’t stop with koeksusters and cans of meatballs in spaghetti. Stockpile diesel, wood, Cornish pasties, beer, Nik-Naks, ice creams, dope cookies, coffee, cheese, cigarettes and adult nappies. Open a pop-up shop and sell everything for ten times the price you paid. Use the money to set yourself up in a country with a future. Botswana, maybe.

Water shedding really hit home when I got an email from the body corporate this week. It’s the words everyone who lives in a complex dreads hearing. “Please accept that you will not have a blue pool until the water crisis is over.” What? This is an outrage. White people need regular access to clean, swimmable water or they will shrivel up and die.

The second hammer blow came when I went for breakfast in Ballito and asked for a glass of water to pacify my hangover. The waiter shook his head sadly. “No water. Too dirty.” I tried explaining that no water was too dirty for my condition but his face grew even sadder.

So what you need to do, then, is keep water purification tablets handy. When your water gets cut, crush the tablets, mix them with a little tobacco and smoke them. It can’t hurt to try. Maybe it can.

Also, get your hands on as much psychotropic medication as possible. The solution to the energy and water crisis lies in selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors. We’re all going to have to remain calm. Very calm.

When it comes to comestibles, milk will keep longer if it stays in the fridge. Who cares? Unless you’re a baby cow, get rid of it. Leave it out for the burglars. They love milk. Especially the cat burglars. Gin kept in the fridge tastes so much better and will keep way longer than milk.

cat burglar

Fresh food will rot so you need to grow your own. If you plant potatoes, sugar cane, agave cacti, poppies and coca, you will never run out of vodka, rum, tequila, heroin or cocaine. I’m not advocating you take drugs. I’m just trying to help us all get through this bad patch. If it even is a patch.

Water restrictions mean you will not be able to wash your car, clothes or body. Be prepared to be filthy. Since I am currently unattached, I don’t have a problem with filthy. This might be the reason I am unattached.

If you absolutely have to wash, buy one of those outdoor showers from a camping shop. Hang it from a tree in your garden. If your neighbour complains, hang him from a tree in his garden. Everyone will think it’s suicide. The way things are headed, there’s bound to be a lot of that going around.

Washing dishes will no longer be an option. I went for lunch at my father’s house in Durban North last weekend and discovered that mongooses are meticulous plate-cleaners. When they’re done, all you need do is pack the crockery away and go for a rabies shot.

mongoose

And there won’t be water to flush your toilet, either. Your options are limited. You could take 500g of Imodium every hour, dig a pit latrine or buy a dog suit and take a dump out on the pavement. I’m going with the dog suit. It’s going to have to be a big one. I’m thinking Irish Wolfhound. And if the brak from across the street tries to mount me, well, it’s been a while. Right now I’ll take what I can get.