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The Jewish Report Editorial

Time to put on your takkies and protest

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We’re certainly living in interesting times, but for some, it could be a curse. What I find fascinating, other than just trying to make sense of all the chaos, is that there are clear parallels between what’s happening here and in Israel.

Many Israelis have taken to the streets to protest against their new government riding roughshod over their rights to an independent judiciary.

Meanwhile, here on the southern tip of Africa, we are about to take to the streets over the fact that not only are we battling to cope with 10 hours of load shedding a day, we’ll soon be paying a great deal more for the few hours that we do have electricity.

In both countries, there’s a sense of desperation and a sense that if the public doesn’t do something, it could be too late.

The question is: do protests help? And if they don’t, what will make a difference?

In both cases, the authorities we are trying to wake up in our protests are the same leadership that was democratically voted into power. So, I guess, even if you voted against them, they are there because somehow, the majority of civilians put them there.

That majority gave them power and, with that power, they’ll apparently do what they want, or in the case of South Africa, not bother to fix what’s broken even if it means destroying our economy.

It does seem, though, that in Israel, there’s been some back peddling regarding changing laws around the judiciary, but that will be seen in time.

Here, the situation is less about changing laws, rather sheer neglect and lack of leadership.

When President Cyril Ramaphosa was once again re-elected to lead the African National Congress (and hence the country) at the ANC national elective conference in December, I was somewhat relieved. I believed he was the only man in the party to take us forward and now he would feel confident to do it – if he hadn’t – because he had won comfortably.

The thing is, when is he going to do something about Eskom? When is he actually going to take on his leadership, and actively do something worthwhile to stop this downward spiral that’s load shedding. I keep thinking he’s going to, but then he doesn’t.

Where is the man who held us through the pandemic? Whether our government made the right or wrong decisions during lockdown and the pandemic, I wasn’t alone in believing that we had a president who was looking after us and doing what he – and the strong group of experts he chose to support him – thought was best.

What’s happened since then? Why haven’t we heard from him?

He chose not to fly out to Davos in Switzerland to the World Economic Forum (WEF) apparently because of our energy crisis. He is said to have held an emergency crisis meeting with his national energy crisis committee and it has an emergency plan. What took him so long? Why only now? Why wait for WEF? This isn’t a new crisis, Mr President!

There go my lights again, and still no sign of the president stepping forward to address the nation.

Haven’t we heard his lofty plans to stop this crisis before? What happened to them?

In fact, at WEF in Davos in 2017, Ramaphosa proudly told the world how he and his government had overcome the country’s energy crisis, making load shedding and outages a thing of the past. Fast track to last year, when we had 208 days of load shedding and now, in January 2023, we have had load shedding every day, now up to 10 hours a day of darkness. So, what happened, Mr President?

How I wish I felt confident in this new emergency plan that I read about. The proof will be in the proverbial pudding. And may it be damn tasty, at that!

The cynic in me can’t help but wonder if he chose not to go to Davos because he would be put on the spot after his 2017 speech about our energy crisis. After 2017, would other countries and potential investors believe him?

If they asked what he was doing to rescue his country, what would he say?

He chose not to go at the last minute because of the crisis, so where’s he now? Why isn’t he addressing the nation? Perhaps he’s going to make us wait until February for his State of the Nation Address. That would really inspire confidence – not!

I read today that he’s apparently unhappy with the 18% Eskom price hike. The story didn’t say what he plans to do about it though. Surely this is also something he should be addressing the nation about, but at the time of going to press, it certainly wasn’t on the cards.

The people of this country can hardly afford to pay more for electricity we aren’t even getting. Besides, why should we? It’s not because we haven’t paid our taxes that we are in this situation!

I totally accept that moaning about the president and his lack of leadership gets us nowhere, but what do we do to fix the situation?

In a group I joined on Facebook called “March on Eskom”, many suggest that we simply don’t pay for electricity. Forgive me, but I cannot see how that will help. I appreciate that Eskom won’t get money from me, but it will simply cut off my electricity, and that feels a lot like cutting off my nose to spite my face. I’m battling with 10 hours less electricity, how will I manage with none?

When I posed this question in the group, I was quickly shot down, and told that we need to suck it up to make change. I’m not sure that I agree with that tactic, nor the aggression in the response. It’s hardly a great way to have a debate or conversation.

As for protests, I’m all for them if there are enough of us to make a difference and if we believe it might get through to our leaders. Am I being cynical in asking what’s in it for the government to listen to its citizens and act accordingly? Why should it? Will a protest nudge it into fixing the 15-year-old problem that is Eskom? I don’t know. Remember, it has the power, we certainly don’t. Or do we?

As I don’t see many other solutions, I’ll see you with my takkies on, holding my placard in the protest march.

As for next week, stand by for a bumper Matric Results edition. Don’t miss it.

Shabbat Shalom!

Peta Krost


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