The view of starry skies over South Africa shared by a NASA Astronaut from the Endeavour’s windows on twitter (click for tweet) is beautiful, incredible and yes, a bit ironic. At least the stars are still shining over South Africa. With more loadshedding stage updates than messages from my friends this week, the state of our electricity provider is again top of mind.
Then there was another tweet that caught my attention. Not as spectacular as the stars, this tweet focused on the much more mundane subject of maintenance. “You actually can and must plan maintenance”, says Giulietta Talevi (Do read the tweet and the thread!) Maintenance is not an exciting subject. There is nothing really creative or new about maintenance and no one compliments you when everything stays the way it is. While everything is neat and whole and working as it should, no one really thinks about what it takes to keep it at that level. The moment it stops being neat and whole and working as it should, then everyone notices. An unkept business might raise questions about whether the business is doing well, a leak in the roof might lead to more damage and not keeping up with maintenance might result in the lights going out – nationwide! When maintenance is neglected, it creates the impression that somewhere someone who is supposed to care, is not.
When Covid struck and both our tourism and wine income came to a sudden halt, we still had our infrastructure to maintain. Extensive gardens, historic buildings, kitchens, etc. all that demand quite a bit of maintenance. Could we afford the upkeep? We tried to prioritise and focus on the most critical, but in the end we realised that we can’t afford not to keep up with our maintenance schedule. If we didn’t, rather than proactive maintenance we would end up with repairs. You would spend the money anyway and it will probably be a bigger and more expensive project.
Let’s not venture into the why when it comes to Eskom’s dilemma. While many of us would like to ignore politics, in a time of elections, especially municipal elections, there is something personal about the process. Service delivery is at the heart of unhappiness for many of us. While we rely on our politicians to ensure equality and democracy at a national level, it is when we struggle with water, electricity, sewage, unsafe roads, etc. that we really react. Most rallies and demonstrations are about a lack of service delivery. People who can no longer cope with their living conditions and feel like throwing rocks is the only way to demonstrate their unhappiness. Is that not the most sorry state of affairs?
Unfortunately for South Africa, in many instances the time for maintenance has past. It is about recovery and rebuilding – a much harder process. It seems that no one cared enough to prevent such deterioration. But let it be a lesson for all. A lack of maintenance is a sign of indifference. Whether is it is for your health, your house or your relationships – maintenance matters.