Our gaffe-prone President Jacob Zuma recently raised our hackles by blaming Eskom’s woes on apartheid. It is very easy to see through Zuma’s one-size-fits-all excuse for everything. It seems as if he would blame his own mother if it meant that he didn’t have to admit any failings by his incompetent ruling party, but that is not what I wanted to discuss (I just needed to get that off my chest)!
So who is to blame for Eskom’s woes?
After careful consideration, I think that it’s the fault of all South Africans especially business people. Before your blood pressure rises to dangerous levels; you need to consider how I reached this conclusion.
For the past 25 years and to this day, you cannot listen to any talk radio station, attend any business presentation or go to a dinner party without hearing someone say “Eskom should be run more like a business. This would never happen in the private sector!”
Spoiler alert: THE WAY ESKOM IS BEING RUN IS THE WAY BUSINESS IS RUN!
Consider the following:
- Eskom has made us consider electricity a luxury and not a utility, so they have created value where very little should exist
- Eskom has succeeded in creating an artificial shortage of their product, they can now push up prices
- The incentivised management team of Eskom has received massive bonuses as they produced massive profits because they have saved tons of money by not doing any maintenance
- Through this all Eskom retains its protection as a state sponsored monopoly so it’s not like we can go anywhere else
So let’s consider whether two of our “private business” industries behave any differently. Let’s compare them to the cell phone and banking industries.
- Banking and cell phone services are just a utility and yet companies in both industries tell you that they do far more than they really do. They say “How can we help you” but they don’t really do anything but maintain a massive computer system
- South African bank fees and cell phone charges are amongst the highest in the world and none of these companies will charge less than the other – enough said
- When it was obvious that our cell networks needed to embrace 3G and then 4G, our cell companies dragged their heels; by doing this they kept on reporting massive profits and incentives rather than providing a better service
- Our banks and cell companies are protected by really bad legislation like FICA and RICA which were meant to be in place for our “protection”, but in reality it has made it almost impossible to move from one service provider to another
The next time the lights go out, perhaps we should consider that Eskom is just doing what we asked it to do; it is running like one of our big privately run companies that we seem to have no problem paying each month.