With the "electricity emergency" having been admitted and with all government and Eskom blunders of the past having been aired, it’s been quite interesting to note that the power crisis is beginning to play a rather quirky and unexpected role in building national unity.
Anyone without an understanding of how or why the crisis was invited and brought down on our heads would probably be inclined to believe that as a nation South Africa is faced with a battle for survival against a "dark force" from outer space.
South Africans from all walks of life and backgrounds, including captains of commerce and industry, well-known personalities, the man-in-the-street, and even opposition politicians and the media appear to be rallying to the cause.
How to save the country from disaster is fast becoming a rallying cry that rivals anything we have faced in the past – including two World Wars and the Freedom Struggle.
Except for the fact that the crisis was self-inflicted by a bungling government and a grossly inefficient state-owned enterprise, elements of the spirit of national fervour are almost as heart-warming as the glow of national pride after our two World Cup Rugby victories.
For this spirit to be harnessed, trust based on total honesty and effective communication needs to be built.
The last thing we need is for the fight against the "dark invader" to be undermined by political grandstanding, inflated egos, the passing of blame and protection of vested interests.
While battle plans can be developed and implemented by all power consumers, the war needs to be won by Eskom. And it’s Eskom that desperately needs to rebuild trust and open up lines of two-way communication with its "troops".
A starting point could be the power usage "barometer" that intrudes on our television viewing. Night-after-night I sit watching TV in virtual black-out conditions – only to learn that electricity usage is at crisis levels.
We need Eskom to feature a second "barometer" on our TV screens – a barometer that informs power consumers of the capacity efficiency levels that the utility is operating at.
It’s all very well to be told that we need to save 10% and that power is going to be rationed. But I am painfully unaware of what to measure my savings against. Do I have to save 10% of what my average consumption may have been over the past 12 months, or do I have to save 10% in relation to what Eskom is capable of producing at any given moment?
If Eskom’s generating capacity is set an index of 100, I want to know via the television barometer how they are performing against this benchmark. If Eskom’s performance consistently exceeds, say, 95%, I would be more than happy to take the minister’s advice, switch off absolutely everything and rush off to bed to "grow bigger and cleverer".
If the Eskom index drops below, say, 70%, I then want to be kept informed of what new crisis has developed in the country’s generating capacity and whether or not it’s the minister and Eskom executives who should be going to bed early every night.
– David Bryant