I had an interesting conversation with an engineer this weekend. Apparently there is a system called “run to failure” that is used to describe the management of assets. The basic definition is that you have an asset, like a machine, and you just use it till it breaks and then try to fix it.
Is South Africa running to failure? We sit here bitching and moaning about luxuries like race differences and political ideologies while something much bigger is going very wrong in this country. The same people that are responsible for potholes are responsible for our whole infrastructure. That is a very scary thought!
South Africa CANNOT survive 7 days without electricity. The first day will be mildly uncomfortable. A lot of people will braai! The second day the water supply will fade away and those with swimming pools will use that water for the toilet and washing… But those of us without swimming pools will have to buy water with cash we don’t have, because internet banking and ATM’s and banks will be down.
We will drive to the shop, which will be dark, and the fridges will start to smell just a little bit funky. On the way home we will remember we can’t juice up, because we don’t have cash, the petrol pumps may not be working and the refinery will have shut down so help is not on its way. A lot of people are going to walk home.
Then comes the chaos, creeping in the shadows. Hungry people are going to steal to eat. If we take Sasolburg for an example on how fast a shop can be looted we should all be a little concerned. Areas affected by disasters are instantly turned into the Wild West, and the strong survive. Police officers, with no food, water and petrol will not go to work. Bodies in the morgues will start to rot. The elderly are the worst of- How will they fend for themselves? How will they keep warm? How will they eat? Where will they find water?
A national blackout will put this country in a civil war overnight. It will not be about political ideologies or who is the mayor of Potch, it will not be about corruption or Affirmative Action. It will be about survival. South Africa is on the brink of a crisis like no other in our history. Eskom is struggling; they admit they are struggling to keep the supply going. If we are going into a winter which resembles the temperature the Northern hemisphere just have, we are in big trouble.
A week long cold front, with snow and icy temperatures will overload the grid. Conditions like that will make it extremely hard to pick up the grid again. Take into account the social impact of angry mobs throwing stones at the Eskom van, blaming them for the failure and nobody will want to fix the problem.
This may seem very over the top, but it isn’t a very far-fetched idea. A crisis like this can happen with one wrong switch being flicked. It can happen by one individual falling asleep at the wrong time. It can happen by one machine that is run past its service time to help keep the supply going. It can happen with one stupid decision. Eskom is no different from the rest of our infrastructure and we all know how that is falling apart.
So, while we moan and bitch about all these things like racial and cultural differences (that will NEVER be sorted out) there are more pressing issues we should care about. Running this country to failure is something nobody can afford, but everybody will have to endure… Or should I rather say- Hope to survive.
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