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Nelson Mandela’s Magic and true spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness has rubbed off on most South Africans. But for how long, asks Adil Nchabeleng…

West of Centurion, Pretoria, there are well-known Indian suburbs, Laudium and Erasmia. These townships were well known for having a highly successful, thriving entrepreneurial community.

At one point, they hosted the largest concentration of brand new BMWs and Mercedes top of the line car ranges. However, the power crisis South Africa faces has changed this picture of success.

Many of these once-successful business owners have had to close shops amid intense loadshedding, which has bludgeoned the already weak economy, adding to South Africa’s already onerous unemployment rate.

Unfortunately, Laudium and Erasmia are not alone. The rest of the country is in a similar situation as the energy crisis sheds not just power but livelihoods.

And a few months ago, CNN reported the economic devastation caused by loadshedding, saying it has caused, “car crashes, opportunistic criminals (add cable theft), rotting food, decomposing bodies (in mortuaries), bankrupt businesses, and water shortages. Welcome to life under South Africa’s power blackouts”.

Let’s not forget January 2023, when South African families were advised to bury their loved ones within four days due to loadshedding, as it affected the ability of mortuaries to keep dead bodies cool and frozen before burial. This as the cost of running a diesel or petrol generator continuously can be too expensive for undertakers to afford.

Most never thought they would be living this unpredictable nightmare, which can be laid at Eskom’s door.

It reminds me of a movie called, ‘Blood Diamond’, in one scene depicting real life and survival in Africa. The movie is based on a battle fought on African soil to mine blood diamonds. In particular, the battle was fought by major multinational corporations and foreign governments over their geo-political interests in the region to mine African diamonds at any cost.

In a scene, Leonardo DiCaprio says, “Sometimes I wonder if God will ever forgive us for what we have done to each other. And I look around (in Africa), and I realise God left this place a long time ago.”

Amid a cost of living crisis and weak economy, it feels to many like loadshedding is the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ and that God left this place a long time ago. Adding to this gloomy picture, a recent June 2023 World Bank report titled, ‘Global Economic Prospects’, projects South Africa at the 2nd bottom line of countries’ growth projection for the next three years, consecutively growing at 0.3% in 2023 and 1.5% in 2024 and 1.6% in 2025.

In layman’s terms, it simply means, as an economy, South Africa is not growing at rates that are significant enough to reverse the economic hardships suffered by businesses and citizens.

Angola, a developing economy, is growing at twice the rate of South Africa’s growth, between the rate of 2.6% to 3.6% in 2024 and 3.1% in 2025. All other countries in the report are at a steady double growth rate trajectory, while South Africa is crawling alone at a snail-like pace on economic growth.

Meanwhile, India, with the highest poor population, is growing at a staggering rate of 6.3% in 2023 with forecast to grow to 6.5% in 2025.

As the World Bank report demonstrates, the South African economy is simply in deep trouble. No amount of spin doctoring, photo ops, and buttering of the situation will get our economy out of this mess, except to go back to fundamentals, sit at the planning table and map out a way out of this economic and energy crisis mess.

If this was any other country, by now, all hell—in the form of street riots and violent protests—would have broken loose on a big scale. South Africa’s July 2021 riots gave us a taste of that. This year, captains of industry and leaders have warned time and time again that if the current status quo in the country is not fixed with the power crisis South Africa may face further riots.

And while we face this mess, what still holds us together is a bit of that Madiba Magic that still exists in this resilient nation. Nelson Mandela’s Magic and true spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness has rubbed off on most South Africans. But for how long?

Crown Prince Adil Nchabeleng is President of Transform RSA and an Independent Energy Expert.

This article first appeared on IOL and is published with permission.