Thursday, 18 December 2014

Eskom – The Power Question

I ended my previous post with the following:

“So – what else can we do? Even if Eskom is not privatised, is there an alternative? We tend to look at things in black and white and see only two options: nationalisation and privatisation – thinking along the lines of: ‘The company was already nationalised, we’re not happy now, so let’s try privatisation instead.’ But there is another option. I’ll tell you all about it in my next post.”

Interestingly – the day after I published my previous post, I came across the following news article: ANC eyes State sell-off to ease power crunch…  and we are one step further on the road to privatisation.

But, as I said, we don’t have to go that route. Agreed – nationalisation often leads to severe problems such as corruption, inefficiency and mismanagement – but so does privatisation. Fortunately, there is another road we can take – one that you can call nationalisation or privatisation – because both words would be suitable – and yet, it would be totally different from the nationalisation or privatisation practices we have seen in the past. I apologise if I have confused you – allow me to explain.

The third road to take is to place Eskom in the hands of ever South African citizen – making each South African a shareholder of Eskom. I said you could call it both ‘nationalisation’ as well as ‘privatisation’. You could call it ‘nationalisation’ because the nation as each citizen would in fact own the power utility company. You could call it ‘privatisation’ because the company would be in the hands of private citizens and not in the hands of a government owning it ‘on behalf of’ the people. Let’s call the third road ‘citizen shareholding’ – why is this a preferred option?

To put it simply – a company will be managed in a way to secure the interests of the shareholders/whoever owns the company. At the moment – that is the government. If Eskom were privatised, it would be the interests of some other company or a select group of individuals that would be served. In such a scenario – you cannot guarantee that a company is run with the benefit of each South African in mind – the power is too centralised.

That is what Eskom is representing at this time: Power – who has the power to control the power? Are we going to place the power to control power in the hands of another small group of people and simply ‘trust’ they will not abuse their power to only further their own power? Or will we place the power in the hands of the people?
When applying citizen shareholding to Eskom, decentralisation is maximized with no one person/group of people having more power than another to influence how power is distributed in South Africa – personal agendas are taken out of the equation and what is best for South Africa can be created.

Citizen Shareholding forms an integral part of the Living Income for South Africa Proposal. Far too long have we taken a back-seat – hoping/waiting/trusting that everything will be okay – and complaining/protesting/striking when it turns out everything is getting worse. Here is a promise: nothing will change if we don’t start paying attention to what is going on, nothing will change if we don’t stand by real solutions, nothing will change if we don’t create awareness of other available options such as the Living Income Guaranteed Proposal. The power to actually change things is in our hands, and it has always been there – the question is: will we do something with it?


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