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Cabbages & Kings: Lies, and more lies …

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If you, like me, were beginning to be persuaded that the “electricity emergency” was starting to foster a sense of national unity and patriotic fervor that could be harnessed to fight off the “dark invader” (see Cabbages and Kings last week), then forget it. 

Having been caught up in the rallying cry to join millions of fellow South Africans – including captains of commerce and industry, celebrities and even politicians willing to forego the opportunity to bash the government and Eskom for blunders of the past – to play my part in saving at least 10% on electricity consumption, I now discover that we are all being hoodwinked.
In this column and as a typically naive citizen, I suggested that if Eskom was prepared to rebuild trust with all energy consumers based on honest and open two-way communication, we could all contribute to winning the war.
I even went out of my to suggest what a I thought would be a very simple and effective communications platform to be used by Eskom for building trust and maintaining motivation to save energy.
For those who may have missed last week’s column, the suggestion went as follows:
“Besides the power usage “barometer” that intrudes on our television viewing night-after-night and that constantly alerts us that electricity usage is running 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 second 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 early 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.”
Believing that this suggestion would provide a fair and reasonable foundation on which to measure performance for both the consumer and Eskom, I then discovered to my utter disgust that the TV barometer is nothing but a blatant lie.
The barometer has nothing whatsoever to do with reality. It is not a “live” reflection of actual consumption at the time. It is nothing more than blatant use of propaganda aimed at trying to brow-beat consumers into saving energy.
So, while I may continue doing my “bit” to save energy – now more out of a sense of self preservation than for some idealistic patriotic purpose – I’m certainly not going to support  Eskom in any way until this monopolistic monstrosity can prove that honesty and integrity are the cornerstones of trust.
– David Bryant