Sunday, February 10, 2008


It’s a bit funny. In most places—excuse me, in many developing countries, if you have something like rolling blackouts planned or unplanned, people accept it more or less. I mean you wouldn’t have academic and political debates about power and the crisis and the government. But South Africa is an entire intersection of the first world in the –I mean a developed country in a developing country. It’s so strange, and I see the juxtaposition or possession of one by the other all the time and in everything.

I’ve been quite excited by the fact that lectures start again in one week because now there are special talks and lectures you can attend and special exhibitions and concerts again at the university. It became very dead and quite in December. I went to two lectures this week outside my field: one on the power crisis and one on cities in conflict.

No need to give you an in depth analysis of these. It’s just interesting to see people engaging like this when I’ve been in countries where people just deal and no one complains to the government. Even with the unusual (so it’s not normal) situation in China with the power issues, failures, bad weather, transportation issues, etc. Some people are complaining, yes. But many are not. So it’s strange here. Funny, though, it’s more of the people at the higher socio-economic class (and students or university people) who are engaging in this discussion.

Economists would say (I love when economists say things) that energy is incorrectly priced in this country. Eskom, a government corporation, only recently (past few years) starting paying taxes. They underpaid for the energy they bought (subsidized by the government), and they offer a lot of free energy and low prices to people as a result. [I know I might have confused people with some of those statements, so if you want, just think of Eskom as a normal corporation apart from government. Also remember that we not only sell energy to other places, we also buy it as well.]

We live in a poor or low-income house. I don’t know the actual government designation. But it means if you consume electricity below a certain limit, you get some of your electricity free. Now, during the talk, it came up that many economists want to raise the price of energy. Of course, not thinking holistically, say as Anna, my anthropologist house mate is apt to do, they were not considering the effect on a disenfranchised people who are still in the process of integration into society. I don’t know how that would help them. It would be good for the government in relation to those who have the money.

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