Today I started up Skype to call my bonus mom in South Africa. When I checked the loadshedding schedule, I realised I would have to wait almost five hours because she had no electricity and thus would not be able to take my call. She can only hear me on the landline. This is how disruptive loadshedding is.

Loadshedding is scheduled blackouts in stages from 1 to 8, depending on how bad the pressure on the national power grid is from day to day. This means power cuts of around 12 hours a day in certain areas – for several days we had 4.5 power cuts in the early morning, 4 hours in middle of the day, and 4 hours at night. This happens every single day.

The (non-official) app looks like this for my mom’s area.  It is updated frequently, and reminds you one hour before the power goes off. Whoever designed this app is genius. The times shown below are the hours during which there is no electricity.

You need to

  • plan meals around the load shedding schedule
  • remember that food spoils in your refrigerator when you have no power
  • bury your loved ones within four days
  • make sure you have cash
  • learn how to use four-way stops with no traffic lights
  • recharge phones, laptops etc whenever you have power
  • plan internet use. No generator, no wifi
  • plan water use if your local pump stations are electric and cannot pump water to your household
  • make sure you gas up your vehicle when you have power as pumps work on electricity
  • find ways of keeping cool that do not involve electricity (AC and fans will not work)

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 because you cannot pay with a credit card or withdraw cash. Power outages costs the economy about $1 million per hour and Eskom (the South African electricity public utility) is $24 billion in debt.

The cause of this enormous fiasco is a combination of crumbling infrastructure, rampant corruption, theft of vital supplies, reliance on poor quality coal, lack of maintenance or upgrades. When we were in South Africa recently, none of the political parties vying for power in the 2024 election wanted to touch the energy crisis with a ten-foot barge pole. I guess fixing the issue is beyond impossible at the moment.

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

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