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Loadshedding – What to do when electricity is not available 24/7

Updated on April 21, 2015


Photo by gubgib @
Photo by gubgib @ | Source

Interesting facts about electricity in SA

3 October, 1881 - Adderly Street, the most historically rich street in Cape Town, got its first electric lights installed.

2 September, 1882 - Electric street lights installed in Kimberley.

1904 - First Electric Tram in South Africa in Kimberley.

The importance of Electricity

Since electricity has been introduced, people’s dependency on it has grown to the level where, when they lose it, they find themselves in a crisis situation. People in developed countries place ELECTRICITY in the same category as water – both vital for human survival.

We can philosophise about the importance of electricity. We can try to convince each other that electricity is not vital for human survival. The fact is without electricity we, modern people, will find ourselves in darkness, desperately searching for a way back to normality.

Power Crisis in South Africa

South Africa, the most developed country in Africa south of the equator, the world’s 25th-most populous nation hosting ± 53 million people - a country ranked by the World Bank as an upper-middle income economy - is currently in a power crisis.

South Africa

South Africa
South Africa | Source

What happened in South Africa?

When people find themselves in a crisis they normally waste a lot of time searching for the cause. The culprits responsible have to be blamed, convicted, hanged, drawn and quartered before any solutions for resolution can be considered.

The most obvious culprit in South Africa’s power crisis is Eskom - Africa’s largest producer of electricity and the ONLY producer of electricity in South Africa. It was established by the government as a non-profit organisation in 1923. In spite of numerous challenges it steadily grew into a highly effective provider among the top seven utilities of its kind in the world.

In 1994 - the end of the Apartheid's regime and the beginning of a democracy with the ANC (African National Congress) in power, ESKOM was turned into a business with the government as sole shareholder.

In 2007 Eskom's bright light suddenly started to fade, but not for the first time. Even during previous regimes Eskom plunged from time to time into misery. (Ref: Eskom's History)

During the first darkest moments of the crisis, when panic turns us into irrational, revengeful creatures, Apartheid was named and shamed as the reason for the crisis. During Apartheid, which lasted from 1948 to 1994, only white people – 20% of the population – had the privilege of enjoying the luxuries provided by electricity, although, as far as I can remember, provision to black townships was an ongoing successful project since the early 70’s. (Ref: Soweto " 1976 83% of houses in Soweto had electricity.)

After blaming Apartheid, the government took responsibility and did not deny their foolish instruction to Eskom to cut on maintenance and development, and to not implement loadshedding as a temporary precaution of a total blackout. (Ref: A view-from-eskom-engineer-forced-to-take-early-pension)

Then Eskom blamed the local governments, the municipalities responsible for the governing of cities and districts, buying power from Eskom to sell at a profit to the users in their region. Due to too many citizens not paying their electricity bills, and the reluctance of these pro-ANC municipalities to terminate the services rendered to those non-payers - (as this could cause the fall of the ANC government) - and also due to their general mismanagement of funds, the 44 district municipalities and 226 local municipalities of South Africa allowed their Eskom bills to grow into billions in arrears – which obviously prevented Eskom from doing maintenance and development even before the government ordered them to cut on these two most essential items on any business’s budget.

And this, in a nutshell, is the cause of South Africa's current power crisis: Maintenance and development were flagrantly neglected.

Photo by Alan Rudnicki
Photo by Alan Rudnicki | Source

Loadshedding - the only precautionary measure warding off a total power blackout

While Eskom and the government are trying to solve the crisis of the decade, the man in the street has to cope with loadshedding – the only precautionary measure warding off a total power blackout that could last for months.

Loadshedding means ‘interrupting the supply of electricity to certain areas’. In other words, rolling blackouts based on a rotating schedule.

Loadshedding is not unknown to the world. Amongst others, it has been a reality at specific times in Canada, Ireland, Japan, Texas, California, India, the U.K., etc. (Ref: Rolling blackout)

Read more about loadshedding HERE.

By now loadshedding in South Africa is an organized reality that effects man and mouse in South Africa, and even the little fish compelled to survive in a tank oxygenated by an electrical supplier in somebody’s home, or in a pet shop. Loadshedding during 6:00am and 10:00pm can last between 2-6 hours. Go figure! Being without electricity for merely one hour not only forces one to realize the amazing power of electricity, but also one’s dependence on it.

Photo by Sira Anamwong
Photo by Sira Anamwong | Source

The effects of loadshedding

The far-reaching effect of loadshedding on the economy has not yet revealed itself as a disaster. The cutting of time for industries and businesses to generate income, including taxes that enable the government to render services such as heath care, education, etc.etc., will soon be another national crisis. (As if mismanagement and fraud don’t already have the country in a crisis situation.)

Opposed to the decreasing of income, are the increasing of running expenses due to the falling value of South Africa’s currency, consequently causing never-ending increases of oil/petrol/gas prices, which evidently leads to the price increase of everything else. On top of this, businesses have to deal with ongoing demands for salary increases by employees who can’t comprehend all the challenges to be met by the job-creators/employers.

Fuelling the disaster awaiting South Africa is also the fact that members of the government, and all who are appointed on the top levels of management - people who are remunerated by tax payers – still receive the most ridiculous salaries comparing to the income of the ordinary taxpayer. These people include all who are suspended (with full pay) while their alleged fraudulent actions are being investigated. On top of this, ± 25% of the population lives under the breadline due to unemployment.

Contemplating the horrendous effect of loadshedding on South Africa's economy, its effect on the man in the street still have to sink in.

Winter is on South Africa’s doorstep, while the shortage of electricity is still an unresolved crisis!

My questions:

Dear friends and relatives in South Africa, I need some information for an article about loadshedding -

1. What do you use in place of electric lights?
2. What kind of meals do you prepare during loadshedding, or before, that could be eaten during loadshedding?
3. What do you do during loadshedding?
4. Do you miss watching TV, or playing/working on your computer?
5. How do YOU cope with all the negative thoughts and emotions caused by loadshedding?
6. Have you suffered any significant losses due to loadshedding?
7. Do you have any inspirational tips for your fellow-South Africans?

How to diminish the devastating consequences of loadshedding

Large businesses, including hospitals, invested in large generators, while some, including homes, put their trust in solar power. Small businesses and houses seem to rely more on rechargeable batteries of various sizes.

Home creators – wives and mothers

How do you cope with loadshedding, is a question I have asked in a group called “In en om die huis” (In and around the home). As I have asked the question in an Afrikaans group, 99% of the answers were in Afrikaans. I proudly translate and share them.

My USP | Source
Thanks to my USP...
Thanks to my USP... | Source


Me, kicking off - We have had loadshedding for the fourth straight days from 18:00 to 22:00. This morning my computer at worked refused to start up. This is my second computer gone to the moon due to loadshedding. Like it was with the 1st, I think I am hoping in vain that the technician will be able to fix it and retrieve all data. I have also lost a TV, and my fridge is on its way out, due to loadshedding. I have a USP (rechargeable battery) that gives power to my computer at home – a desktop I use to practise my hobby - writing. Unfortunately this USP provides power for only one hour. (I should have bought a bigger one!) But then I also have a laptop with another hour of power. Unfortunately the battery of my router last only one-and-a-half hour. I still have to get a little gas stove. Strange, the moment the power goes off, I get a craving for coffee! I have also replaced candles with battery lights. They are cheap and effective. I need a wireless radio!

Martie van Eck' Solar Kit
Martie van Eck' Solar Kit
Mariaan Faure's oil lamp
Mariaan Faure's oil lamp
“Line Of Candles” by nuchylee
“Line Of Candles” by nuchylee | Source
“1-plate Gas Stove" by John Kasawa
“1-plate Gas Stove" by John Kasawa | Source
2-plate Gas Stove” by khongkitwiriyachan @
2-plate Gas Stove” by khongkitwiriyachan @ | Source
 “Solar Garden Lamp At Night” by franky242
“Solar Garden Lamp At Night” by franky242 | Source
“Solar Cells” by duron123
“Solar Cells” by duron123 | Source
My battery lamp
My battery lamp | Source

Alet Van Zyl - I have a 1-plate gas stove, a kettle and a pot. I boil water, make stew, soup, or whatever. I have invested in a good battery operated light for reading when darkness strike. My home is filled with candles so I light a match and there we go. During loadshedding I tell stories. (My granddaughter of 5 loves my stories!) Or we look at the moon and stars and listen to the silence. We honestly make the best of the situation. However, loadshedding is disruptive in many ways. I am lucky, but thinking of people in need of an oxygen concentrator or nebulizer, etc. How do they cope?

Tersia Helena Maree – I use battery lights. They are quite effective and not as dangerous as candles. I prepare food earlier than usual and keep it warm in the warming oven. We love being outdoors, eating and chatting in the moonlight. I am positive. Our discomfort is nothing comparing to the suffering of our ancestors in those concentration camps during the Anglo-Boer war. Keep in mind that our forefathers never knew the luxury of electricity. Endurance is in our genes. Everything has a beginning and an end. This, too, will pass.

Hendrieka Pozyn Visser – We use a little gas stove (those for camping), gas lamps, candles, and sun power lights.

Ansie Lotriet Coetzee – For me loadshedding is a special occasion. I listen to sounds I never hear, such as a mouse running around somewhere in the house, the tick-tock of the battery-powered clock in the kitchen and my neighbor’s snoring.

Riana Botha – We have a 2-plate gas stove; preparing food is not a problem. We have a flash drive with music and a portable, battery-powered speaker, and access to the Internet via our laptops. To prevent the sudden flow of electricity when the loadshedding is over from damaging my fridge, deep-freeze and TV, I unplugged them during loadshedding. I feel sorry for businesses, especially those who have to keep perishable food fresh in fridges. I hope Eskom’s new manager will solve all problems.

Carolyn Neser – I keep candles in glass vases for safety. During loadshedding I do handwork that doesn’t require electricity, like quilting. I listen to music on my wireless radio. For cooking I use a little gas stove. Nowadays I buy more tinned food and less stuff that can go off in the fridge and freezer. I miss my computer and empathize with those who get stuck in traffic jams caused by dead traffic lights and traffic cops shining in their absence. BTW, I make a point of keeping cellphones and all batteries charged.

Maureen Tempelman O Callaghan – I have a gas stove for cooking, candles and lamps for lighting, TV not essential, as we have so many repeats. I use the time to read, or doing crossword puzzles or catch up on filing. I sympathized with small businesses having to pay their staff in spite of no production during loadshedding.

Ntsutle Motaung Mafisa – I use candles and solar lights from Game, and cook normal meals. I cook in bulk, and eat them cold. Of course, sometimes loadshedding takes you by surprise, then you have no option but to go buy from fast-food outlets or restaurants. Fortunately most of them have generators, so loadshedding doesn’t effect them. During loadshedding I read, or continue to help my son with homework - as normal. I miss my soapies - especially Isibaya. Loadshedding is a symptom indicative of a bigger and more disturbing malaise of maladministration, bad planning, not caring about people or the economy. I do applaud the government for hooking up the black majority to an electricity grid that was meant for the exclusive use of the white minority, but more could have been done to expand it. Loadshedding, in a way, is still partly rooted in apartheid problems. Solar is the way to go. I wish i had money to make this a reality soon.

Mariaan Faurie Erasmus – I just bought an oil lamp. I have downloaded an app on my tablet to get loadshedding alerts. I plan my day in accordance with loadshedding schedules. I keep my tablet, cellphone, laptop, mp3 player and e-book reader charged. You will never hear me complain; I love the peaceful atmosphere during loadshedding. Just relax! People should gear themselves for loadshedding and stop complaining. Complaints don’t solve problems. All my fresh-water fish had died due to the horrible water provided by the municipality. The water crisis in our near future is going to make loadshedding looks like a party. I am also more concerned about xenophobia and other crap going on in this country.

Dalene Pieterse - Without TV? Good, quality family time!

Shannon - Martie, I saw your comment about loadshedding. Obviously, I am not from South Africa. But I do know how frustrating it is not to have access to electricity or a computer, a vehicle even. As long as there is a tomorrow, there is always hope for a better future.

Isabel Roesch - I have battery powered Christmas lights in the kitchen, candles and LED lamps in the rest of the house. I have a 2-plate gas stove. Loadshedding in my region is normally during breakfast, or over dinner and bath-time for the kids. I have nothing to complain about.

Joan Visser - Its only hubby and I. If we know its coming, I get rolls and cold meat, lettuce tomato and cheese. We have candles, one LED globe torch and a headlight for reading, a laptop with access to the Internet and a wireless radio. What more do we need? We have a roof over our heads!

Angelica Jooste – We use a generator (powered by diesel) at night, and a gas stove/oven for cooking and boiling water. We live on a farm, so no electricity also means no water. (The bad about electric pumps!) So, I have to keep a lot of water in containers. I hate Eskom!

Jeff Potas – I use candles, gas, and keep tea in a flask, listen to the radio and chat with my friends on my cellphone. I don’t miss TV, but my hubby does.

Jeanette Bergoff Snr – We wear those mini headlights on our heads and socialize a lot during loadshedding. During the day – when we are home - we spend quality time in the garden. It is hard at work, not being able to work during loadshedding. Everything besides filing we have to do on computers. I have sympathy with our boss, having to pay us in spite of loadshedding.

Tersia Helena Maree – I keep my flask filled with boiling water for coffee. As long as I have coffee, I’m happy. Oh, and the gas stove, too, is an important utility. However, I am quite afraid of gas. My father, who lives with us, normally gets it going.

Elizabeth Loock – I don’t miss TV. I use my laptop for editing my clients photo's in the evenings. Thanks to loadshedding we have more time to worship and praise the Lord.

Martie VanEck Du Toit – We bought a Solar Kit that keeps 2 lights burning. Also have a gas stove.

Lizette Holloway - I practice my violin during loadshedding. Eat fresh fruit and vegetables. Use candles and those Console glass bottles with the solar pads. Worse things can happen to us than sharing electricity. I feel sorry for businessmen, not able to produce during loadshedding.

Suzette Swartz - We have lamps powered by rechargeable batteries. Time flies while I am crocheting. Loadshedding will not get the better of me.

Author's note:

I think Suzette has summarized the attitude of the majority of South African women: "Loadshedding will not get the better of us!"

Mom and kids playing games during loadshedding

 © Martie Coetser
© Martie Coetser

© 2015 Martie Coetser


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