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‘NKWE’ IS THE WAY

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Expressing an opinion in a national newspaper can be fun.

After all, no one can interrupt you as you pontificate on a subject close to your heart or pocket. And nobody can disagree with you on the spot, or scream you out of the room. Well, not immediately. The problem with an ‘opinion’ is that it invariably involves explicit or implicit criticism. And that’s no fun. But if you ignore it, you aren’t in the real world. Unfortunately, most of those who read about a national problem can’t do anything about it. And those who can do something, either don’t bother to read about it or choose to not do anything about it.
The sense of urgency captured by the siSwati word ‘nkwe’ should be applied to the following: Human safety on our roads, protection of our roads and obtaining sufficient power in Eswatini for industry, other economic growth and personal comfort.

Our dedicated Royal Eswatini Police Service must learn to ‘serve’ in a more penetrative manner. Roadblocks meet certain objectives, but have no impact on the urban streets which, especially in busy hours, are getting increasingly chaotic. Drivers, many of whom are behind the wheel of kombis, are cruising happily over red lights. Our police (or CCTV) need to be there on the spot, with a big fine. Not the ridiculous E60; perfect in 1924, a joke in 2024. Legislative changes are needed, perhaps including fines for the kombi owners themselves. In the First World repeat offenders lose their licences for a period. The reckless drivers will then start behaving.

And while we’re on the road, why are there no publicised complaints about all the trucks carrying coal down the main highway? They block the traffic, creating serious risk to other vehicles. And do the authorities realise what the road surface is going to look like in a few years’ time? Those trucks loaded – are they even weighed? - must weigh 40 tonnes. Under the Generalised Power Law, you can compare the damage done by a two-tonne bakkie with two axles, with a 40 tonne coal truck with eight axles The relative damage done by each axle of the truck comes to 625 times the damage done by each axle of the bakkie (insidescience.org). That highway is a showpiece. Foreign direct investors love it, gliding smoothly amid the beautiful scenery. Will that remain? And will revenue match repair costs? First it was iron ore; now it’s coal. Whoever is responsible, get real please.

Applied

‘Nkwe’ is more than for congratulating the country on taking electricity to 80 per cent of the population of Eswatini. We’ve heard that a hundred times. ‘Nkwe’ should be applied to telling the people of Eswatini where the country will be on January 1, 2025 and, if there’s expected to be a big shortage of power in the country, precisely what we’re doing about it.
And making 80 per cent of the population with access to electricity is only one part of the equation. I wonder how many of the 80 per cent can actually afford to buy the electricity. These are really tough times for thousands, with prices continuing to slide upwards in shops. The guys who can do anything about the challenges are not affected, not suffering, like 60 per cent of the population who live below the international poverty line.

The chief executive officer (CEO) of Standard Bank, at its 2024 Energy Indaba, stated that ‘the primary challenge (for Eswatini) lies in energy generation rather than access’. He must have been misquoted or it was simply an unfortunately ambiguous remark. Because, while emaSwati have not been subjected to the onerous load-shedding of the average occupant of South Africa (SA), the supply agreement with Eskom of South Africa expires at the end of 2024. When January 2025 arrives and we seek a new agreement, there is no way they will deny their own people just to protect little old Eswatini. That, quite simply, is ‘access’ under severe threat. But perhaps the CEO is aware of information that we are not. The recent weeks of no load-shedding in SA are encouraging but years of neglect and corruption there still threaten. So where are we in terms of a new agreement like the existing one? The people of Eswatini need to know. There’s only seven months left.

Entitled

And what is our power generation deficit anyway? EmaSwati are entitled to know what is the current amount of daily electricity supply (including self-generation) compared with peak demand, as well as demand at less intensive usage hours of the day and night. The CEO stated that ‘demand ranges between 245 and 250 megawatts’ in any one day. We are not told about total current and foreseeable future supply; only that hydro is creating 60MW a day. On June 15, 2023, I asked in my article for a public chart, regularly updated, showing our power generation deficit, and tracking the progress in resolving the shortfall. We didn’t get that.

Why not? The people of this country deserve it because the day of reckoning cometh. In the absence of a publicly reported speech by the Ministry of Natural Resources, the ministry overall responsible, all we had was two speakers talking about how we have the natural resources and must prioritise renewable energy. We’ve been hearing all that for years, with decades of missed opportunities in thermal power generation. We should be investing now, not next year. It’s a top priority in the land of wasted opportunity.

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