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The inner significance of a Golden Jubilee - J H S van der Walt

When the Prime Minister spoke at the banquet which ESCOM gave in Johannesburg on the 19 March 1973 to mark its 50th anniversary he lauded ESCOM in measured terms for what it had achieved during its life up to date.  And rightly so because these were achievements of laudatory remarks and of celebrations.

These achievements can be and have been expressed in terms of units sold, of installed capacity, of kilometres of transmission lines, of technological advances in the generation and transmission of power.  Seen in the light of ESCOM has done a creditable job and deserved the bouquets instead of the brickbats which have, on rare occasions, been thrown as it in the past.  Whether the bouquets outnumber the brickbats or vice versa are of no concern here; the former serve to sweeten the path of life; the latter are accepted as part of that life.  What matters is whether a job of work has been done and to the best of one’s ability.  On that score ESCOM is content to let others be the judge.

Therefore, on 19 March 1973 ESCOM looked its employer, South Africa, and those who work and have worked for and with it squarely in the face and said: “I am celebrating a birthday; come and join me.  If you want to see why and what I have done, look around you.”

On this occasion it put off the overalls of the workman and donned the clothes of host.  And host it was indeed, for the State was there in the person of the Prime Minister and South Africa was there in the persons of people prominent in all walks of South African life.  They had come not just to be present a a glittering occasion or to spend a pleasant evening.  Their presence was a tribute to what ESCOM had done and will do in their interest and therefore in the interest of South Africa, because they are the economic growth points of the country who exert an influence in ever widening circles.

Just as they are economic growth points ESCOM has become a strong points in the South African economy; indeed, ESCOM has become an inseparable essential part of the South African way of life.

More, it has become a powerful tool in the hands of South Africa, a force which already extends beyond the borders of the country and has only one aim and object; to bring benefits and progress to the users of its power; it is an ambassador of goodwill, and earnest of South Africa’s desire to live in peace with its neighbours and to assist them to taste the fruits of prosperity which are born of progress.

It has made the contribution for which it was founded, to the establishment of a sound economy which is a bulwark against outside forces which make no secret of their aim to destroy under peaceful guise or in openly hostile manner an ordered way of life.

ESCOM was born of the needs which arose from the bitter aftermath of world turmoil.  Twenty five years ago Dr H J van der Bijl wrote: “Our inspiration has derived from faith in the future of our country … a young and vigorous land in a world grown old and perhaps weary.”

ESCOM has typified this country.  It too was young when these words were written but like South Africa it has grown to vigorous manhood and plays a vital role in ensuring stability in South Africa outside whose borders there I a one again world in turmoil.  The strength deriving from that knowledge is the guarantee for the future.

ESCOM is an employee of South Africa and an employer of South Africans.  Both are there to provide their people with a living in exchange for their services.

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The thoughtful employee of ESCOM however detects a deeper significance in this organization and does not just see it as an institution which assures him of a secure living in exchange for hiss service; he sees it as an integral component of the South African structure, a guarantee of safety and security for everybody who is a part of that structure, and instrument which has been forged for the welfare of the country, which share in the weal and woe of that country and reliably reflects the state of the country.

The socialist concept of social security is fundamentally sound but it may be interpreted in many ways.  It is a look under which idler, the loiterer and hardworking may shelter.  All are assured of living means, but a secure life through service to an institution which through service to an institution which thorough service assists in making a nation secure, is greater reward than the monetary reward for service rendered.  It gives satisfaction and gratification which a full purse cannot offer.  Money may be lost or squandered; satisfaction about a job well done in a worthy cause endures for all time.

That is why ESCOM celebrated its gold Jubilee in a festive manner.  It has done right by its employers, South Africa, and in equal measure by those who work diligently in its service.

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On the 1st of March 1973 ESCOM celebrated its jubilee and to mark the occasion it was suggested to request the issue of special postage stamps.  A formal request was sent to the postal authorities and it was hoped the approval would be obtained.  In anticipation ofs uch approval the Commission decided to hold a competition for the design of suitable stamps.

The competition was open to personnel only and there was a first prize of R25, and a second prize of R10.  The prize winning designs, and others considered suitable by the Commission were submitted to the postal authorities.

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