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.