Sibongile Mafu

Eskom can take a hike

2012-10-24 09:00

Sibonglie Mafu

When Eskom proposes, there is no ring. There are no fireworks. There isn’t even a sunset. There may be a candlelit dinner since that requires very little power. When Eskom proposes something it’s usually quite a dim affair.

Their latest proposal has been their most depressing piece of news since the Mass Rolling Blackouts of 2008. Those still give me nightmares. Eskom’s latest tariff application sees them asking the National Energy Regulator of South Africa to approve hikes that would increase the cost of electricity by 16 percent a year for the next five years. This effectively means we’d be paying almost double what we’re paying now, in five years. This means those measly units that you’re able to scrape together each month will double in cost.

Eskom is seriously standing in the way of my sanity. 

Power from magic and rainbows

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Africa’s largest producer of electricity for most of my life. Eskom makes for very good small talk content, second only to the weather. In the good old days when I was a little kid and my parents paid for my electricity consumption, I thought power came from magic and rainbows. Like babies. The energy that made my beverages warm and kept my drinks cool was as free as the sunset, and brought just as much joy. As the years went on, I started to see the cost of having power in your home was a real one. I realised that businesses and industries needed it to exist, and to keep the country going. Even when I went to my local salon to get my hair relaxed when I was younger, I realised the sheer amount of electricity that was being used by my hairstylist just to keep her hairdryers on and water warm.

My parents have a prepaid electricity meter and when I became old enough to count, they would send me off to buy electricity at our local garage. They’d give me a neat R50 note and a card, put it in a bank bag and tell me we’re in the red zone and in desperate need of power. And then off I'd go to get us back in the green zone - the zone that made the television run and life better. I’d sometimes stand in a queue that would stretch right around that garage, behind people on the same mission as me. Some were only armed with a R10 note that would be just enough to cook something for their families that night. Who knew about tomorrow? This was ten years ago.
I’d return home with my hard-earned power which my mom would insert into the meter, getting us comfortably out of the red zone. I’d then continue living my life, using up energy until the next time I was asked to top up.

Even the TV tells us...

Ten years ago there were hardly any notices on my television asking me to switch off any unnecessary appliances and threatening red flashing lights that said South Africa, at that current time, was consuming too much power. Yes, my mom always told me to switch off the lights when I left a room and not use too much hot water, but then the TV started telling me this, so it had to be true! I had to adapt. Soon after that I started learning about Eskom’s reliance on coal and the need for renewable energy and I began to realise that comfort came at a cost.

With these proposed new tariff hikes, it won’t get any easier. With everything from the price of fuel to the price of food going up, it’s turning out to be quite an expense to be alive.

Has anyone ever emigrated due to ill-treatment by Eskom? France looks nice.


- Sibongile is a videographer, blogger and social media enthusiast who would be nothing without her thumbs. Follow her on Twitter: @SboshMafu.

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