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A Wind Power Fable

03 January 2012, 12:51

The search for cheap, clean, renewable means of generating electricity has become the subject for serious discussion all over the world. Here, in a lighter vein, is why wind power might not work in South Africa.


It is a well known fact that most of the wind in this country comes from hot air; produced whenever one our bungling ministers or their wily spin-doctors make a speech, statement, or just verbalize their jumbled thoughts. Unfortunately, the wind from these overpaid, incompetent windbags is not reliable or trustworthy. Harnessing the wind they generate is thus not an option – as a wise Chinese guru once said: “It is an evil wind that blows no good.”


The above is just by way of introduction to our story, so settle down children, and pay attention.


Long ago and far away, in a land called Zumania, there lived three devious tenderpreneurs who received a contract (because they had political connections) to build a wind farm in a barren and desolate part of the country – known as the Karoo. (Karoo is, in fact, a Khoisan word which means “Karoo” – Ed.)


No one wanted to live in the Karoo, mainly because of the Karoo. There was nothing to steal, no one to rob, rape, or murder, and no place to recharge cell phone batteries. 


Our three shysters (we’ll call them John, Gert, and Tshepo, just to be politically correct) had no previous experience or qualifications in the construction or building of wind-turbines.


“Not to worry chaps,” said Tshepo, who studied in London during the struggle, “in the Free State province, under contract to the ANC, I once built 600 crappers that were open to the external environment. Some people complained about the loss of their dignity, but I still got remunerated for the project. Now let us recruit some workers, what.”


Before the elections, the king of Zumania, Awuleth' Umshini Wami, Shower Head the Third, had promised his millions of mindless minions – also known as voters – that he would create 584,124 jobs. He also warned that, if they didn’t vote for the ANC, the ancestors would be very angry and prevent them for ever winning the Lotto, and that Verwoerd would come back. 


And so, our three tenderpreneurs contacted 584,124 of their brothers and sisters by SMS, asking them to come and work on the wind farm. On their arrival, everyone was issued with the usual red T-shirt and baseball cap, with the logo: “Chinese kill mules.” They also received a food parcel. (The brothers and sisters, that is, not the mules – can’t trust a mule with a parcel.)


The original cost of the project was five million Rand – but with inflation, corruption, and the cost of Jack Daniels, the final price tag came to just over R100, 000 trillion gazillion. Of course, all the materials were imported from China.


After many strikes, riots, and clashes with the unions, twenty wind-turbines were finally constructed – years behind schedule. Which is normal for Zumania.


Then, one sunny day, 15 workers (the others died from hunger because the government neglected to order more food parcels) watched as twenty massive blades started turning near the tops of the 130 meter high structures; each equipped with a wind-turbine capable of generating 5MW.


Although the noise from the mechanical gearing system was similar to that of twenty revving motorcycles and the low-frequency, penetrating sound of the rotating blades was found to be troublesome (like the low thud of base notes from loud taxi-music, or the sound of a helicopter taking off) the resident sheep, dassies, rocks, and lizards, didn’t seem to mind. (Although some low-flying vultures and crows were chopped to micro chips.)


But then, just when everyone started cheering, it suddenly dawned on them that they were supposed to be generating electricity and not an overpowering, mind-destroying clamour. Worse, the readings on their sophisticated measuring equipment showed that not even one milliwatt was being generated by the combined output from all the turbines!


Luckily, John, who went to school in Soweto during the struggle, and later burned it down after spending eight years in grade three, came up with a solution to the problem; or challenge, as it is popularly known in South Africa.


“Hey, wena! Take down and dismantle nineteen of the turbines and towers,” he ordered.


Next day, with only one wind generator and eleven workers remaining, the team repeated their initial test. Wow! 5MW, instantly!


Baffled, the team turned to John for an explanation.


“Relax, Ma’gents,” he said, “the Karoo hasn’t got enough wind for twenty wind turbine generators. Nothing for mahala!”


And so, even though the original tender – for twenty turbines – could not be fulfilled, they packed up and left the Karoo; leaving everything to the elements. But, as in all cases where projects are not completed, or of substandard quality, the tenderpreneurs kept the money.


And everyone lived happily ever after.


Except for Gert, who was never involved with the struggle and studied at North-West University in Potchefstroom. (Amogelesegang mo Yunibesiting ya Bokone-Bophirima.) He was gatvol. Because of BEE and Affirmative Action, he couldn’t find another job and left Zumania to settle in Australia. But that’s another story.


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