How more Stage 4 load shedding would have whacked the ANC in Election 2019
At Stage 4 load shedding, the ANC election outcome would have been much lower than now expected writes Ferial Haffajee for Fin24.
Across three different sets of opinion polls, the ANC is set for a decent victory even after what its own leaders have called a “lost decade” of kleptocracy and corruption. The party is polling for a victory of between 58% and 61% of the national vote, almost three times higher than the expected outcome for the next biggest party, the opposition Democratic Alliance.
The DA is polling at a national election outcome of between 18% and 20%.
But in March, as Stage 4 load shedding plunged the country into darkness, the ANC’s favourability went down further than any other party in the country.
If that load shedding had continued, the ANC could have been skirting 50% and an election outcome that would look very different from what it is looking like now. In Gauteng, the ANC is now polling for a 56% victory over the DA which had hoped to win the powerhouse province but when load shedding hit, the party’s fortune went right down, says pollster David Everatt who led the ANC research in Gauteng.
Load shedding vs the ANC, Ramaphosa
Citizen Surveys, which asks 3900 people a quarter on their perceptions of a range of topics, found that Stage 4 load shedding sunk positive perceptions of government in general and of President Cyril Ramaphosa in particular.
“Trust in Eskom dropped by a drastic 17% in the first three months of 2019, falling from 56% in January to 49% in February and then by a further 10 percentage points to 39% in March,” said Citizen Surveys.
The Stage 4 load shedding hit on March 20. It hiked perceptions of corruption and dipped support for Ramaphosa.
“There is therefore a correlation between how the public’s mistrust in Eskom directly influences their perceptions of corruption,” noted Citizen Surveys.
Ramaphosa feels the heat
Ramaphosa has almost single-handedly lifted the ANC’s fortunes.
Whereas the party’s favourability rankings dipped below 50% as the worst of the state capture revelations emerged in 2016, its fortunes rose when Ramaphosa was elected party president at the party’s electoral conference at the Nasrec showgrounds in December 2017 and when he was inaugurated as country president in February 2018 after former President Jacob Zuma’s ouster by the ANC.
But even his popularity could not contain the fall in March when load shedding went into its highest gear. The national grid almost fell after the loss of a power line from Cahora Bassa dam, but that has been repaired and restored. Both the Medupi and Kusile power stations are behind schedule but a new unit at Kusile has been connected to the grid with new leadership in place at Eskom.
Further Stage 4 load shedding was largely prevented by buying diesel and keeping the lights on through using the open-cycle gas turbines.
Post election electricity plan?
It is costing the country millions of rands to run this source of emergency power. The diesel tanks at the turbines are now full, Eskom has confirmed. But at what cost and is this a sustainable post-election plan?
Energy expert Ted Blom told Fin24 that the turbines consume 50 000 litres of diesel per hour.
The transportation of diesel from Cape Town harbour where it is stored to Mossel Bay is also expensive as the tankers are on standby for 24 hours a day. And there are many tankers taking return trips to keep the gas turbines on.
There are about 30 turbines says Blom and each one needs 24 tanks working continuously to keep it supplied with diesel. In March 2018, the Mail&Guardian reported that Eskom was spending R148 million that month on diesel up from R43.62 million the month before.
Efforts by Fin24 to get information on what diesel costs were in March and April 2019 were unsuccessful, but it is likely to be higher than last year’s figures.
The cost of diesel will feed through into higher tariffs for consumers eventually as Eskom charges these to its clawback account for unbudgeted costs.
What this means is that ordinary South Africans will eventually pay the costs of the diesel while powering the ANC to a victory in Wednesday’s election.