THE Democratic Alliance (DA) ruffled some feathers over the weekend when billboards appeared across Gauteng sarcastically remarking on Eskom’s resumption of load shedding, blaming the practice on the ANC. The billboards were put up by the DA ahead of the general elections to draw attention to South Africa’s energy management issues.
The main opposition party had previously caused controversy last year, when it erected similar billboards criticising the introduction of E-tolls on Gauteng’s freeways. In both instances, the punchline of the short message reads, “Proudly brought to you by the ANC”, attacking these policies under the current government’s rule.
The ANC has released statements expressing their ongoing disapproval of these campaigns. With regard to the current billboard campaign, the ANC said, “They [the DA] will stop at nothing to use anything for election purposes but the good thing is the people can see through them. They aren’t helping the country find solutions to the problem.”
When approached for direct comment, ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu scoffed off the incident, declining comment with the following remark: “We don’t speak about other people’s billboards. We’ve got our own.”
That being said, the ANC has threatened to approach the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) with an official complaint regarding these campaigns, accusing the DA of partaking in mere publicity stunts and alleging that the billboards threaten the integrity of the democratic process ahead of this year’s elections.
The DA’s main bone of contention with load shedding is the government’s delay in building new power-plants for the country, following earlier ANC promises. The party hopes to draw attention to the problem with the contentious billboard campaign.
However, the DA has also stated that under its national governance the party’s own solution to the problem would lie in privatising the energy market and thus creating a competitive marketplace in which various companies could offer energy products. The party said that it would also seek to revoke bonuses paid out to Eskom directors, amounting to a total of R31 million, and has launched an online petition to bring the issue to public attention.
Some DA members have also criticised South Africa’s continuing obligation to sell electricity to neighbouring African countries; however, according to Eskom statistics, this would only amount to less than 6 per cent of SA’s electricity output in total. The DA has alleged that this 6 per cent difference would have been able to close the majority of the gap in the domestic landscape when electricity was forcibly switched off for several hours in most urban areas across the country last week.
The reason for the current load shedding schedule is reported to unusable wet coal following major rainfall and flooding across Gauteng and Mpumalanga earlier this month. The last such load shedding schedule took place in 2008, causing major disruptions across South Africa as well as creating a measurable economic backlash in its aftermath.
To avoid being accused of handling South Africa’s energy resources recklessly itself, the DA made sure that its notorious billboards weren’t powered by electricity but instead use a glow-in-the-dark technology to continue provoking the political establishment throughout the night.
By Sertan Sanderson, 2014