It’s a move that has been widely welcomed by industry and civil society alike. The only question is why it took President Cyril Ramaphosa until now to do it. South Africa has needed a decision like this that unleashes the potential of the private sector to get on with its purpose of creating wealth and sustaining jobs, while reducing the pressure on the national power utility, which this week plunged into Stage 4 load shedding.
It will get worse before it gets better. Everyone knows this. The cleaning up of Eskom is the 21st century equivalent of Hercules mucking out the Augean Stables. For every step forward, there are vested interests and creaking superannuated infrastructure to contend with and sometimes even the weather when the coal gets wet.
Allowing big private companies to generate their own power, many of whom will do it using renewable sources such as solar, will break both government’s dogmatic insistence on central control and the perverse aversion to green power in certain sectors.
Eskom will lose revenue if some of the big players start producing their own, but it can’t produce enough for them as it is. Ramaphosa’s announcement should protect the national grid, give Eskom some much-needed breathing space and allow the economy to properly get going.
But we are not out of the woods yet, there is still the issue of the obscene speed with which government is trying to commit us to a 20-year multibillion contract with Turkish powerships.
Ramaphosa can do us all a favour and kill this one too before government effectively congests our ports, fries all the marine life around them and pollutes the sea air, because we won’t need them now.