One thing you cannot fail to notice in South Africa is LOADSHEDDING! Loadshedding means scheduled blackouts in stages from 1 to 8, depending on how bad the situation is. This means power cuts of around 12 hours a day in certain areas – for several days we had 4.5 hours in the early morning, 4 hours middle of the day, and 4 hours at night in Grahamstown/Makhana, at the same time as there was no water for three days. My mother has water every second day but this time the water cut lasted three days at the same time as it was 40°C!
Most bigger shops and restaurants have generators that kick in during loadshedding, but these establishments cannot make tea or coffee because the power provided by the generator needs to be used for other things. Small businesses often cannot afford generators and so they really struggle during loadshedding. You cannot pay with a credit card and there is no wifi if there is loadshedding and no generator.
Having spoken to several of my friends, the baker and the potter had the hardest time of it because they had to plan their activities very carefully according to the – not always accurate – schedule. A seamstress had to ask their staff to work late at night when there was usually power, and my hairdresser was unable to blow hair dry, though they had battery-operated cutting machines.
One thing you need to remember when you go to bed is which lights were on before loadshedding. Otherwise you will wake at midnight with all the lights on.
Each home has approximately three Magneto rechargeable LED lanterns, meaning that Magneto has sold – we estimated – 30 million units. These lamps are rechargeable, run for 60 hours on one charge, and can be used as phone chargers. When plugged in to their wall chargers they turn on automatically when the power goes out. There are three different brightness settings. I did not see any other brand than these so they do have a grip on the market. The ones below cost about $15 in the supermarket.
When we were travelling, we bought a small one. You can charge your phone with it and it has two brightness settings. It’s brilliant for use as a torch.