By Stephanie Wild
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 3 of VARSITY News.
Recently, we have all become closely acquainted with the joys of load shedding. Whether it means squinting in candlelight while trying to work, scrounging up a last-minute meal without a microwave, or just not being able to work because you cannot get on to Vula, load shedding has hit us all. This inconvenience extends beyond just us students to businesses suffering losses of revenue. The tangible effects on the South African economy is adding increasing political pressure on the executive. Our collective frustration as a civil society is therefore shown to be a powerful tool.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) has already tried to capitalise on this through the usual whirlwind of campaign promises. Alan Winde, the DA’s Western Cape Premier candidate, has placed the blame squarely on the ANC’s shoulders with regards to load shedding. He cites the DA’s 2016 Energy Security Game Changer aimed at stabilising electricity supply to the Western Cape through renewable energy, as well as the DA’s plan to dissolve Eskom. The latter is argued to allow for the introduction of new independent energy suppliers to enter the industry previously monopolised by Eskom. This does not, however, take into account the extremely high entry-level costs associated with trying to break into the energy industry, which would in theory raise the consumer cost of electricity. This industry being so highly dependent on large and expensive infrastructure, it is better suited to monopolies or oligopolies for efficiency and profitability. It seems odd then that the DA is promising increased efficiency with this plan.
Moreover, any tangible change would require the DA to win at a national level. These promises to dissolve Eskom cannot be fulfilled at a simple provincial level, whereby the Western Cape government will remain dependent on the national government for the provision of such a service. The Western Cape cannot, at least at this stage, exist off of Eskom’s electricity grid, despite Winde’s faith in the Energy Security Game Changer. The DA never having won at a national level, it should not be running its campaign based on promises contingent on wining at this national level. It then becomes clear that DA rhetoric is aimed at addressing potential voters’ frustration and desperation, while it ignores tangible solutions to these very real problems. Such a misuse of the people’s outcry and anguish is unethical. It serves to demonise the ruling-party so as to find an avenue and outlet for this anger and desperation, which in turn is used to gain power through the DA presenting themselves as the solution.
Not only does this feel like blatant manipulation, but the DA is also opening itself up to future criticism. In the event that they win at a provincial level in the Western Cape, but do not win at a national level, which according to the precedent set is the most likely outcome, and in the event that they are unable to “keep the lights on”, their voter base will begin to lose faith in them. As such, these elections and the subsequent term served will determine the DA’s political future. Breaking the promise to “keep the lights on” may just well be South Africa’s breaking point.
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