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Post South Africa's Electrical Crisis is Similar to Venezuela's
Created by John Eipper on 03/12/19 8:28 AM

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South Africa's Electrical Crisis is Similar to Venezuela's (Timothy Ashby, Spain, 03/12/19 8:28 am)

José Ignacio Soler's report on Venezuela's electricity crisis (March 12th) is so similar to what is happening currently in South Africa, that if one simply exchanged the name of the South American country to the African one the report would be almost identical.

After a decade of corruption on a mind-boggling scale, South Africa's state-owned power company Eskom is nearing collapse. Under the governing African National Congress (which has become synonymous with endemic corruption), creeping blackouts and debt have risen to over $40 billion dollars (445 billion ZAR) since 2007. An estimated 1.5 trillion ZAR ($105 billion) has "leaked" or been stolen from the company during that time. Daily blackouts (called load sheddings) are routine, ATMs don't work, shop's tills don't work, traffic lights don't work. At any given time, a third of the entire power generation capacity of the country is unavailable.

Eskom has gone through half a dozen CEOs and as many finance directors over the past eight years and the entire senior management team numbering seventeen executives are either being investigated for corruption or have been fired. On top of which six out of a total of eight power generation stations are currently out of commission. Which means that the entire country's power has been running on only two power stations working flat out.

Eskom is being run now by a team of junior executives with next to no engineering experience. Nearly all white managers and engineers have been forced out by the Black Economic Empowerment program. Eskom has run out of coal as fuel stock for its decrepit and overworked remaining power stations. So the company is having to beg, borrow and steal low-grade coal full of rocks, making further breakages and wear and tear in the few remaining and heavily overworked power generation plants vastly more likely.

They do have some backup gas-fueled facilities that run on diesel, which have been running at full-tilt and burning 50 thousand gallons of diesel oil a day (roughly the capacity of an entire oil tanker). At vast expense but even with this emergency back-up contingency in place Eskom have also now totally run out of diesel and are reportedly waiting for a passing ship to come past the Cape to basically hijack it.

Although President Ramaphosa has said that the government will break up Eskom into three subsidiaries of generation, distribution and transmission, this will make little or no difference to the deepening crisis because the array of issues is so deep-seated and structural. At a time when Ramaphosa has just announced nationalising the Reserve Bank (SA's central bank) plus private pensions, there is no possibility of privatising Eskom, especially with national elections on May 8th. Eskom is the largest employer in the country, with nearly 100,000 people on its payroll (and it is roughly 60% overstaffed). The ANC is dependent on the unions, which are led by Marxists, and which, along with the radical Economic Freedom Fighters party, are driving the ruling party to the far Left.

Eskom used to be one of the most respected power utility companies in the world, with South Africa's neighbours relying on the country for their own electricity. But now the ANC stooges have feasted on its carcass like ravenous jackals. Total graft, greed, malfeasance and head-in-the-sand political incompetence have brought South Africa to this point. The state literally cannot even keep the power on more than half the day indefinitely in a supposedly industrialized country. Ironically, I have been told by Black, White and Coloured South African friends that this problem never would have arisen when the white man was in charge.

JE comments:  There may be no option for Eskom but to privatize, but things may have to get much worse before they get better.  Tim Ashby's posts on South Africa have definitively shown that the happy days of Nelson Mandela's rule are in the past.  U$105 billion in "leakage"?  How could Mandela have been betrayed so egregiously by his successors?

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  • How Much Oil Fits in a Tanker? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 03/13/19 3:46 AM)
    A small marine correction to the post of Timothy Ashby (12 March).

    50,000 gallons of diesel fuel will not fill a modern oil tanker. Consider the following:

    42 gallons in a barrel.

    7 (more or less depending on the specific weight of diesel) barrels per metric ton.

    Therefore, 50,000 gallons may be just under 200 tons, but a modern tanker carries 200,000 tons or more. Consider that a smaller tanker may carry 20,000 tons of refined oil.

    Just for curiosity the VLCC of Amoco would consume more than 100 tons of diesel per day, the Costa Concordia 331.

    The largest tanker was the Japanese-built Seawise Giant (1975-2010), which could carry 550,000 tons of crude oil measuring 458 x 68 x 24.6 meters. It had too much draft to cross the British Channel. In May 1988 it was bombed by the Iraqi air force near the Straits of Hormuz.

    About the electrical blackout in Venezuela, is there no chance it was the work of hackers, as with the Iranian nuclear turbines?

    JE comments:  Today's installment of Fun with Acronyms:  VLCC means, logically enough, Very Large Crude Carrier.  I wonder if Tim Ashby meant the South Africans burn 50,000 barrels of diesel per day.  That would make the math work out to about one tanker.

    Regarding the possibility of hackers turning off the power in Venezuela:  This is Maduro's excuse, and if Maduro says it, most of us knee-jerkedly assume it's not true.  But do we really know...?

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