The Centre for Civil Society based within the School of Built environment and Development studies invites you to the seminar Electricity crisis scenarios – a muddle, a meltdown or a miracle? by Patrick Bond

Date: Tuesday, 20 January 2015
Time: 12h30 – 14h00
Venue: CCS Seminar Room 602, 6th Floor, MTB Tower, Howard College, UKZN

Eskom is in the midst of its worst-ever crisis. But nearly all the voices addressing the prospect of interminable load-shedding represent the historic corporate or white beneficiaries of racial apartheid’s electricity or the newly empowered. To be sure, expansion of deracialised electricity supply raised access levels from 35% to 85% of households over the past quarter century. However, countervailing inequities abound: the extraordinary recent price increases mainly felt by poor people; the low ampere levels of service offered in ghettoes; the state’s failure, still, to supply 15% of people who reside in shack settlements and rural areas; the imposition of pre-payment meters in black (not white) neighbourhoods; and a tokenistic subsidy (50 kWh/hh/month of ‘Free Basic Electricity’), not to mention ongoing Special Pricing Agreements with the largest mining houses. These, together, have generated waves of popular protest, often capable of winning specific demands. But illegal connections and resulting electrocutions prevail in many sites, as do runaway fires in residential areas still not serviced with electricity. Trade unions, healthworkers and environmentalists have also protested Eskom. Workers strike over labour conditions at Eskom, including the Medupi power plant. Eskom’s coal addiction (and resistance to renewable energy) and resulting climate change and local ecological devastation attract critique on grounds of ecology and mercury poisoning. In one campaigning case, coal extraction from the villages of Somkhele and Fuleni on the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park border – some destined for Eskom boilers and some for Europe, India and China – reflects the need for well-planned but increasingly urgent shifts in energy politics. Many such micro-struggles and the emergence of a United Front linking Eskom’s metalworkers and its consumers provide a sense of the potential for addressing these problems with multifaceted arguments and coalitions from below.

Bond directs CCS and recently authored two books, South Africa – The Present as History (Johannesburg, Jacana Press, 2014, co-authored with John Saul) and Elite Transition: From Apartheid to Neoliberalism in South Africa (third edition, 2014, London, Pluto Press).

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