A waste of energy

I have been on the road for a few days, driving relentlessly into the sunrise, and I buy a newspaper whenever I can. However, there is a certain amount of news lag as the cities are reduced to towns and the towns dwindle to villages.

One of the last things I read was that the chief executive officer of the National Energy Regulator of South Africa had resigned “to pursue other interests”.

What? I don’t understand. How is it possible that she has other interests? To become CEO of Nersa takes more than a passion for acronyms. One doesn’t simply reach the pinnacle of a country’s energy sector on a whim. Nor does one get there by having an uncle in the electricity business.

I always fancied that Phindile Baleni must have had a single-minded fascination with electricity from an early age. And I’m not talking about her sticking her fingers into a wall socket as a baby to see what would happen. I did that and right away my parents ruled out a career with Nersa. They pretty much ruled out a career, period.

I pictured Phindile rushing home from school to fashion crude circuit boards out of copper wire bangles and tiny ham radios that worked with actual pieces of ham. I pictured her sneaking out at night to catch glowworms and then pulling them apart to find out what made them glow. I imagined her tying a key to a kite and flying it in a thunder storm to see what would happen when lightning struck it. Okay, that last one was a bit much. Only an idiot would do that.

But she was clearly driven to find out what electricity is and why it does what it does. That must have been one of the questions in her job interview. When she was asked how she felt about energy, it’s unlikely that she yawned and put on her meh face.

I would never have got the job. I am scared of electricity because I don’t understand how it works, much like some people in the townships don’t understand how Somalians work. But that doesn’t mean I want to go out and attack electricity.

Never mind electricity – I think cellphones are black magic. And by that, I mean no disrespect. Some of my best friends are black magicians. Well, they would be if they didn’t keep disappearing with a poof. And by that, I mean no disrespect … never mind.

So, yes. I was shocked to discover that Phindile Baleni, the CEO of Nersa, had all along been nurturing other interests. This must have been going on for a while.

At first I wondered how she had managed to find time to develop new interests. After all, if you’re going to be an effective CEO of an organisation like Nersa, you’re not going to have any time for yourself or your family. And, as in any job that comes with a nine-figure salary, that’s how it should be.

Then it struck me. I would have said “like a bolt out of the blue” but once you start mixing your cliches with your analogies, you’re heading down a very dark road.

I can predict, almost to the hour, when Phindile started cheating on Nersa. It’s when Eskom once again began shedding its filthy load. It wasn’t just Phindile, though. Many of us began pursuing other interests. Some of us renewed our passports while others liquidated their assets, or whatever the hell one does with one’s assets when one has to leave the country in a hurry.

Who could blame her? It couldn’t have been much fun being CEO of Nersa when, for several hours a day, your communications network is reduced to Whatsapp.

I empathised and silently wished her well as she went in pursuit of her other interests.

Then I spotted a new story. “The resignation of Phindile Baleni will lead to hikes in the electricity price …”

Instantly, my empathy was subsumed by outrage. How very dare she. What an incredibly selfish woman. Resign to pursue other interests and plunge the entire country into … hang on. What’s the source on this story? The Democratic Alliance? Really?

Some random DA MP had said in a statement: “Sadly, Ms Baleni’s resignation now heightens the possibility of a far more compliant Nersa CEO being installed, an appointment that will surely mean further electricity hikes for consumers.”

Ah, yes. The old “surely mean” offensive. Will these scare-mongering panic mechanics stop at nothing in their quest to portray the ANC as some kind of monster on a Machiavellian mission to give Eskom the old governmental glad-hand?

You might have thought that by calling Phindile a “steadfast defender of the South African consumer”, the DA would have destroyed her chances of ever working in this country again.

Inexplicably, this never happened. I only know this because I have just learnt that Comrade Phindile has been appointed director general in Gauteng premier David Makhura’s office.

I did so hope that her other interests might have turned out to be less political and more, I don’t know, esoteric, perhaps. Someone has to work out the practicalities of astral travel. It could have been her. What a waste.

 

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