Sunday, January 27, 2008

Foreign reporting on South Africa hasn't really moved on

Earlier in the week, the Guardian, when describing the power cuts managed to take the obligatory dig at "griping whites", pointing out that black townships had no electricity in the past.

The Washington Post also got into the act, quoting people who were apparently glad to see Sandton in darkness:
On that night last month, South Africa's debilitating run of blackouts had darkened the gleaming hotels and bank towers of Alexandra's famously glitzy neighbor, Sandton. And Alexandra, once synonymous with the squalor blacks were forced to endure under white-supremacist rule, had light.

"I said, 'Wow! Reversal of roles!' " recalled Dhlomo-Mautloa, 51. "I was thinking it was wonderful."


But here in Alexandra, the pain of what the state-owned utility Eskom calls "load shedding," the temporary cutting off of power to some consumers, has been tempered by a sense that the nation's bounty -- and burdens -- are finally being experienced more evenly.

"Load shedding is the great leveler," Dhlomo-Mautloa, who also is an artist, said with a laugh. "We should call it 'load sharing' because we are sharing this inconvenience."

As much as I would like to share in the gloating that load shedding is a just retribution for Apartheid, the foolish reporters don't understand that crippling the South African economy is just as likely to punish blacks as whites. A working black person who faces a job loss because of this debacle would spit in the face of this argument. Only the deeply ignorant (or woolly headed foreign reporters) would enjoy seeing the financial heart of South Africa plunged into darkness.

And thirteen years was more than enough to increase production capacity. The government has taken the blame, mining activity has ground to a halt and the brakes are being slammed on the economy. But, it looks like some foreign reporters have not moved on and are battling to understand the dynamics of today's South Africa.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

How long before South Africa's first affirmative action plane crash?

The last months of rolling blackouts ("load shedding") from Eskom, and general incompetence have made me a more cynical person about South Africa and its short to medium term future.

Something in my gut, following the Comair/Kulula Department of Labour debacle, has made me wonder how long it will 1 be before someone in the aviation industry, not suited or qualified for a position of critical responsibility, but forced into that position by a government quota, will cause a major catastrophe.

Of course, God-forbid, should such a catastrophe happen, and it is caused by an underqualifed employment equity person, there will be a cover up, and no one will dare speak the truth for fear of being branded racist.

The government could, of course, be aware of this and take a pragmatic approach to transformation to the sector, but, given the every day incompetence (in the corporate world and government) of people who are out of their depth in their employment equity positions, I doubt that they would.

I fully support the demographic transformation of the South African workforce, but, unless it is driven by pragmatic considerations, rather than blind ideology, we might find it tough to dig ourselves of the mess we create. After all the business world may be able to understand the ideology and try to implement it, but the laws of physics are far less understanding.

<1> The Air Force would be a good place to see if this will happen, as the government usually precedes the corporate sector in transformation.

Looks like we didn't have to wait that long for an example. And an SAA manager wants "non-white" individuals to be given preference for overtime and extra training.