Eskom: A tale of systemic instability

Eskom is responsible for the generation of 98% of electricity in South Africa, as well as its transmission and distribution. Using data from the public domain, we have considered key staff segments in Eskom and analysed the temporality or temporal structure of each.

The growing politicisation of the company, especially from 2010, what is frequently discussed in terms of ‘state capture’[1], coincides with the period when Eskom becomes non-stationary. In other words, state capture coincides with severe and uncontrolled disturbances to the company’s temporal regime. The problem at Eskom, that is, is not simply corruption or incompetence.

The graph below shows a period of change during the early 1990s, followed by a period of stability, then more changes in the late 1990s, followed by a relatively long period of stability. This is what is expected from a stationary series, which undergoes limited turbulence.

From 2008, however, the rate of change accelerates and never settles down. The series becomes non-stationary. 


As predicted by our model, disruptions to Eskom’s temporal regime, that is, non-stationarity, is associated with the growing inefficiency. The graph below, generated by Eskom itself, shows the amount of electricity that Eskom generates per week. It shows data for 2016 (blue), 2017 (red) and (2018). Overall, Eskom generates less electricity each year. This is not a function of declining demand. It is a symptom of deteriorating efficiency.


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