The light at the end of the tunnel has gone out

I was on deadline when an Eskom attack dog was unleashed on Twitter, snarling that stage 4 load shedding was imminent and anyone who had a problem could meet him outside in the parking lot. Like cancer, there is no stage 5.

Hysterical, I ran naked around my shack in the milkwoods shouting at the cat to get ready. A few hours earlier we had been subjected to stage 2, resulting in lukewarm beer for me and tepid milk for her. We were less than impressed but at least we weren’t panicking. There was still stage 3 to go.

But that didn’t happen.

Proceeding directly from stage 2 to stage 4 meant that something terrible was happening. We weren’t sure what it was because Eskom won’t tell us how it’s possible to go from months and months of wallowing in electricity to having almost none at all. In the space of a few hours.

They don’t explain because they either think we are too stupid to understand or they fear that we will unite across racial and political lines and march on Megatwatt Park and burn their building to the ground. So. Stupid it is then.

The cat licked her paw and set about washing her face. She must have seen some truly appalling things in her life to be able to remain calm in the face of a stage 4 clusterfuck.

Seven minutes later the lights went out. I hadn’t even found my pants yet. The cat raised its damp paw and pointed at its mouth. I pretended not to see. “Mroww,” she said. I am semi-fluent in cat as I’m sure she is in English but we keep it to ourselves out of mutual fear of exploitation.

“I can’t see you!” I shouted. “You’re a black cat in a power failure on a moonless night in a country poised to hurl itself into a stygian abyss. Give me a break.” She yawned and fell over. It was all I could do not to follow suit.

The ill-advised advisories began oozing out like ectoplasm. “Generating units are still tripping”. So am I, bro. But you don’t see me plunging the country into chaos.

“Expect defective traffic lights.” Oh, please. It would have come as a tremendous shock to get a message that all traffic lights were working.

“Since this morning we have unexpectedly lost six generating units and are consequently at war with Germany.” Oops. I’m getting my chilling announcements mixed up.

I sympathise with Eskom. Things go astray. I’ve lost many things over the years, including my car keys, mind and virginity. What I don’t understand is how you unexpectedly lose six generating units, which are probably bigger than, say, a Bic lighter. Perhaps they meant it literally. Everyone went on lunch and when they came back, six units were missing. People will steal anything these days. But they probably mean that the units were lost in much the same way that soldiers are unexpectedly lost in battle. A management sniper firing deadly bursts of incompetence and neglect brought them down in the prime of their lives.

Eskom should at least have the decency to erect a memorial in their honour. They gave their lives so that we could, however briefly, have light. There could be a Tomb of the Unknown Unit dedicated to all the unsung units who have sacrificed their lives since the great plundering of 2008.

Weirdly, Eskom still blames us. There’s too much pressure on the system, they whine. It’s those people in Durban. The temperature drops below 28 degrees and it’s out with the electric blankets and turbo-charged heaters, draining the national grid and forcing the rest of us to suffer horribly. Selfish bastards.

Trapped knee-deep in a treacherous quagmire of political compromise and public expectations like a deer in the headlines – I mix better martinis than metaphors – our noble president announced the other day that Eskom would be unbundled. Generation, transmission, distribution. Many of us would also like to see the utility’s top management split into three parts. Head, torso, limbs.

Ramaphosa’s plan means that bribes will in future have to be split three ways. The old days of one family and a couple of cadres getting everything are over. This is a perfect blend of capitalism and socialism and works very well in a model kakistocracy such as ours.

I say let’s put Eskom in private hands. From where I sit I can see my neighbor having a braai. He doesn’t have any friends, but nor does Eskom. The fire has gone out and he is on his knees throwing up into the swimming pool. Let him run Eskom. He couldn’t possibly do a worse job.

I’m on deadline and it’s a race against time to finish this before the beers get undrinkable and the pirated battery in my laptop load sheds itself.

Don’t talk to me about pressure on the system.

6 thoughts on “The light at the end of the tunnel has gone out

  1. Dónal

    You f-ing biscuit. Not literally you understand – I can tell the difference between a Romany cream and a freshly spun trovato. Glad to see someone take the bull by the reins and make hay while the iron is hot.. Malaphors aside thanks for lampooning this shocking state of affairs (sorry, couldn’t resist a last minute cliché).

  2. Christopher Albertyn

    That is an absolutely delightful piece of writing. Many thanks, I’ve not laughed like that for a long time.

  3. I would like to have one of each of your books Ben, but how will get them to Italy? My family are scattered around SA, so if you tell me where you are, maybe one of them can pass by? Leanne

  4. Lauren Copley

    Brilliant, as always! I feel your pain. No power yesterday for nearly 7 hours. WTF…how are we creative types supposed to survive life, deadlines and darkness? Laughter, music and wine. Not necessarily in that order…..
    Admirably yours
    Fellow journo/editor – Lauren
    Keep me laughing, please!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *