Skip to content

Riding The South African Heatwave – Is South Africa Too Hot To Handle?


Riding The South African Heatwave – Is South Africa Too Hot To Handle?

I’m no rap artist, but it has to be said: Things are looking so grim in South Africa right now the phrase “drop it like it’s hot” is ringing in my ears. Because with 2023 already looking far too 2022-ish for my liking, it’s starting to get pretty hot in here.

We are staring down the barrel of another hard year of loadshedding, interest rate hikes, escalating cost of living, and rampant corruption and fraud. Not to mention the odd bit of corporate poisoning to spice things up a little.

It’s no wonder even Mr Regular Joe Citizen is starting to get hot under the collar.

With apologies to William Shakespeare, but this is surely “The summer of our discontent.”

We’re not even a month into the new year, and we’re already experiencing crippling Stage 6 loadshedding on a regular basis. Am I the only one saying, “Come back, Stage 3, all is forgiven?” I mean, can we really blame outgoing Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter for handing in his notice? The situation at the power utility has reached boiling point; in fact, right now it’s a powder keg, and there are far too many people waiting in the shadows with matches at the ready.

I’m well aware of the phrase, “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” But even the haters have to admit de Ruyter hung on long after many others would have called it a day.

It was only after things simply got too hot to handle – shameless sabotage of power stations, ongoing tender and supply corruption, and the eventual deploying of troops to protect certain power plants – that he eventually threw in the towel.

And then there was the small matter of his attempted assassination from cyanide poisoning!

To be honest, if that particular story hadn’t broken in respected news publications, I would have thought someone was having a laugh at our expense.

Cyanide poisoning? I think you’ve been watching too much CSI.

Sadly not.

According to a report by Chris Yelland of EE Business Intelligence, De Ruyter “became weak, dizzy and confused, shaking uncontrollably and vomiting copiously” after drinking coffee at work. He later collapsed and was rushed to hospital where tests confirmed cyanide poisoning. 

De Ruyter later said he reported the matter to the South African Police Service (who seem, in my humble opinion, to have done precisely nothing about finding the culprits).

I’m sure I’m not the only one for whom this story draws worrying parallels to the poisoning of Russian opposition figure and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny in August 2020. He became ill on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow, prompting the plane to make an emergency landing in Omsk, where he was rushed to hospital. Tests confirmed the presence of the nerve agent, Novichok.

Like de Ruyter (and disappointingly for his would-be assassin) he eventually recovered and was released from hospital.

I’m ashamed to say that South Africa is no stranger to poisoning scandals. Deputy National Police Commissioner of Crime Detection, Sindile Mfazi, died in July 2021 due to “complications from Covid-19.” His body was later exhumed for further examination after questions surfaced connecting his death to poisoning.

News24 later reported that “Mfazi was poisoned with casting resin, a poisonous and hazardous chemical substance used to manufacture and produce moulds, plastic toys, and figurines.”

And back in August 2015, Deputy President David Mabuza claimed someone slipped him something toxic during his birthday celebrations. He later said that tests had revealed “a foreign bacteria” in his body, and his weight reportedly dropped from 78kg to 44kg. His survival of the ordeal earned him the nickname “The Cat.”

Unfortunately, much like the South African heatwave that’s making us all sweat right now, our equally hot and uncomfortable political conditions show no signs of cooling down any time soon.

And I’m not the only one saying this.

Human Rights Watch’s 2023 World Report predicts this year will see us struggling once again with old foes such as gender-based violence, corruption and xenophobia.

It makes my blood boil to read that almost 12 000 cases of violence against women were reported in South Africa in 2022.

In the 3 months from April to June alone, 855 women and 243 children were killed, and 9 516 rapes were reported. The fact that this is 500 fewer than the previous year is cold comfort; we all know that many women don’t report sexual assault for fear of a revenge attack.

As South Africans, we are sick and tired of the continued “hire fire weather warnings” being sounded by everyone from economists to politicians. But here’s a newsflash, people: Unlike the weather, this is not something we just have to put up with.

We still live in a democracy. Kind of.

We still have options. To a degree.

So, let’s stop sitting on those options – it’s time to stand up and bring the heat!

Former leader of the Democratic Alliance, Mmusi Maimane recently wrote that it’s time for new politics that deliver “real solutions for everyday South Africans.”

No 💩 Sherlock.

We’re faced with highs that are really lows: High cost of living, high levels of inflation, high interest rates, high levels of load shedding and high levels of crime. Not to mention extremely low levels of service delivery.

Maimane calls for a “robust new course of action.” But what would that ideally look like?

Surely the Number 1 task on the hit list must be keeping the lights on? If we can’t get that right, we might as well kiss all other efforts goodbye. We are not mushrooms. We do not want to live in the dark – literally or metaphorically.

Eskom is a hotbed of mismanagement and corruption. We need radical change, and we need it now.

Rampant loadshedding threatens the very safety and livelihoods of our people. It’s also scaring away desperately needed foreign investment and preventing the potential creation of millions of job opportunities.

And when you see a global giant like KFC announcing in a Tweet that it’s being forced to close some of its branches because loadshedding is creating supply issues, then you know this is not a chicken 💩 problem.

When businesses close, it impacts jobs. We simply cannot afford this! Unemployment has grown by almost 60% in the past 10 years. Not helped, of course, by the dire situation of our education system.

The World Economic Forum recently ranked our workforce skills 101 out of 140 countries, and our vocational skills 119 out of the same number. How can we expect to create skilled workers if we don’t create an educated youth?

Another flashpoint in this hot mess is the general cost of living – stoked in no small part by rises in interest rates and the cost of fuel.

Between November 2021 and December 2022, South Africa saw no fewer than seven consecutive interest rate hikes, increasing the prime lending rate by 3.25%. Added to this is an almost 20% increase in the price of petrol and a staggering 38.7% increase in the cost of diesel.

But the wallet burn doesn’t end there. The average instalment-to-income ratio has increased by almost 9% in the past 12 months – to the point where the average, middle-class South African spends around two-thirds of their salary servicing debt.

What is it going to take to put out all these fires? Because we have to do something – we cannot afford to simply sit back and wait for it to rain.

Many are clamouring for new leadership, but if recent history is anything to go by, all that means is a jump from the frying pan to the fire.

So, here’s my final question for you:

How much more heat are our people prepared to take before the smoulder of discontent bursts into flame?

Has the time come to fight fire with fire?