Solar systems: ‘Eskom charged to fix problem it created


I was listening to Prof Thuli Madonsela on Newzroom Afrika the other day and I have to say she has disappointed me this time around.

The prof – in her wisdom or lack thereof – is suggesting that Eskom be the one which should “purchase” solar systems on behalf of the people of South Africa.

She argues that Eskom has the muscle to negotiate better prices because it will be bulk buying and dangerously assumes the benefits will accrue to the people!

Maybe she was temporarily not a South African. This, she says, will ease the energy crisis in SA. I have no problem with anyone trying to contribute towards the resolution of our energy crisis.

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Solar is not the way to go

I, however, don’t think Eskom is the right instrument to do that, nor do I think that’s the way to go about installing solar systems in SA.

My greatest problem is to even suggest that Eskom be the institution charged with the responsibility of solving a problem which it essentially created, about 15 years ago, and is unable to resolve.

This she says without any qualification at all. Eskom, besides the engineering and quality control problems, is deeply mired in corruption.

I don’t know what gives the prof the confidence that Eskom is better suited to resolve this problem.

The other problem, and it is a general SA problem, is where we think our problems can be solved by merely buying goods and services from other nations without thinking creatively.

Economic opportunities for other countries

The problems of SA, and indeed African, have always been economic opportunities for other nations. Purchasing Chinese solar systems creates employment and productivity opportunities for China.

We will just be consumers, as we always have been, and we’re called the “biggest economy in Africa” when all we do is to consume goods we never produce.

Going solar is indeed a positive thought, particularly for household consumers. But we have to shift the paradigm.

We need to think about consuming what we produce ourselves and ultimately distribute to the continent and other nations.

In SA, we talk about lack of technical skills. You can imagine the skills we will produce out of manufacturing the solar units ourselves.

On the other hand, imagine what we will do if we experience problems with solar systems bought elsewhere, and we experience the frustration of being unable to repair electronic equipment which is imported.

At all costs, and where possible, we, as a country’ must begin to think as much as possible to produce goods and services for ourselves.

We have to think of ourselves as the biggest economy on our definition and terms. We must think about creativity, productivity and innovation.

Without the radical change in our thinking, we will forever create jobs for other nations, consume their goods and services while we suffer the ravages of unemployment and having social grants as our only pride. Just thinking – while it’s still legal.

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-Monama is an independent commentator and a former Azapo leader.