The supply of electricity is undoubtedly the paramount issue confronting South Africa. Besides the obvious fact that electricity is indispensable to modern life, as a political issue it is of decisive significance as historical precedents prove.
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin understood the political significance of bringing electricity to farms and villages across Russia. Within three years of his seizure of power in 1917, an electrification commission produced a 500-page report detailing the construction of a network of 30 regional power stations.
Bare light bulbs called “Ilyich lamps” suspended from the ceilings of peasants’ homesteads, symbolically conveyed a very tangible achievement of Lenin’s regime.
In the 1930s, President Franklin Roosevelt (FDR) recognized the value of electrification in alleviating America’s socioeconomic depression.
The Tennessee Valley project encompassing 40,000 square miles across seven states saw the establishment of 25 dams which enabled the generation and distribution of electricity through 5,000 miles of transmission lines.
Before the project, only two farms in the region out of 100 were electrified. By 1937 that had progressed to one in seven farms. Overall, FDR’s New Deal resulted in the electrification of 8 out of every ten farms in the US.
Energy security enhanced FDR’s political security. Re-elected to serve four terms as president he was unassailable.
Without electricity stability, the ANC cannot credibly propagate any positive development. That message should galvanize opposition parties, as Rob Hersov has urged, to promote viable solutions to our electricity crisis so as to rid South Africa of the ANC incubus in 2024.