The supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils.
I’ve always found Mr. Powell’s dictum almost tautological in its obviousness. Though he understood the necessity to articulate even foundational premises for those little inclined to observe them. Unfortunately it is those of littlest inclination whom we have repeatedly chosen as leaders. And so those preventable evils have become public policy. A lower standard for statesmanship is needed.
Perhaps preventable evil’s apogee was in allowing white western countries to blithely embark on the southerly sail towards South Africa. But how were our captains to anticipate the shoals? It’s not as if one can see the societies we’re creating in advance. I mean who knows how a formerly white-run country would function? All we really have is speculation.
JOHANNESBURG, Jan 29 (Reuters) – Days of rolling blackouts this week have blighted South African society and business, and they face an increasing number of outages in years to come. But the alternative, a grid collapse, could be catastrophic.
Bordered by tiny, war-scarred or impoverished states such as Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, Africa’s most advanced economy cannot rely on help to power its 42,000 MW electricity network and has nobody to turn to if the lights go out.
I hope readers will note the conspicuously passive language. Rolling blackouts have blighted South Africa. And it’s equally hapless neighbors are impoverished and war scarred. Here’s my question: by whom? Are black outs sentient beings bent on blighting? If so, who unleashed them upon the noble citizenry? Are there some external forces of agency impoverishing and war scarring these otherwise bucolic nations? Surely some party other than themselves is to blame. And surely a lengthy search won’t be required to find who.
State power firm Eskom has implemented rolling blackouts for almost a year as its old, deteriorating infrastructure buckles under the strain. They are a last-resort measure to avoid total failure of the power system.
Such a collapse would bring the country to its knees within days. After their back-up diesel generators run out, everything from hospitals to water suppliers and mobile phone firms could cease to function, while law and order could break down.
From what I can discern from afar, law and order breakdown in SA is well ahead of the electrical grid in its disintegration. Though its gratifying to learn preparations remain ongoing.
Eskom has suffered from years of underfunding and investment in new plants has not kept up with demand. It has warned South Africans face rolling blackouts for several years to come.
As yet no plans for a long-term solution have been announced. President Jacob Zuma’s government is working on a financing plan for the sector and details are expected to be outlined when the finance minister presents the budget next month.
It’s difficult to believe that the future time oriented cabinet of Jacob Zuma hasn’t long ago contemplated a feasible financing plan for basic utilities. Perhaps the securitized sale of albino penises will bring in sufficient state revenue.
Though the premise is fairly simple: oppressed peoples confiscate capital assets from white bigots, and those assets subsequently function as anticipated into perpetuity with no further input from man required. So something very strange is afoot in SA.
Crime is already a major concern for most South Africans and with no power going to electric fences or security gates and streets pitch black at night, criminals have new opportunities in a nation with 25 percent unemployment and massive inequality. Such effects can be devastating – but they still pale in comparison with the consequences of a grid collapse.
The chaos would not be short-lived.
Eskom, which stresses that a complete shutdown is extremely unlikely, nonetheless has emergency plans in place to resume power delivery – known as a “black start” – but warns it would take weeks.
In such an emergency scenario, Zuma and his cabinet would be taken to a secret location and soldiers would be deployed at key sites such as the central bank and South African Broadcasting Corporation HQ, a government source said.
Take some solace in the knowledge that Zuma and his personal witch doctor will be safely ensconced when the country returns to its native state sans electricity. From their bunker a certainly cogent government response will emerge.
And while all of this pathetic deterioration could have been predicted by a Red Lobster waitress in Tucson, it was plainly beyond the reckoning of mere heads of state.
So we have Johannesburg today and Brussels tomorrow. And sadly only one Zuma between the two. Though even if civilization succumbed to darkness, at least we can always count on having running water no matter what.
I’ll drink to that.