A Country in Darkness

Tonight we began to experience what is being described in the press as the worst power crisis in SA since 2008. The state electricity utility, ESKOM, after years of mismanagement and gross fraud and corruption, is utterly bankrupt and unable to manage the needs of the country-wide electricity network. Since we got here there’ve been little scheduled outages – called “load shedding” – during which we’d lose electricity for an hour or two, depending on the stage, with one being the most minor. All of that escalated dramatically today, as ESKOM lost six of their major operating units resulting in an urgent implementation of “Stage 4 Load Shedding.” For us, that means a loss of electricity for about 10 hours a day, staggered in 3 or 4 time slots of about 3 hours each, for the foreseeable future – at least for several weeks. Apparently this is required because at the moment the entire electricity grid could go down at any minute. The ineptitude and mismanagement is staggering.

Tonight’s load shedding was in addition to a planned 8 hour outage we had earlier today for maintenance. All of this, while inconvenient and befuddling, is completely manageable for us, with our candles and flashlights and headlamps and safe locked houses and running water. Of course our garage doesn’t open (which is a problem if we need to get to a meeting or the kids to school and can’t get the car out), the phones don’t charge, the internet is down, the kids can’t print their homework, we have to grill our dinner, the lights in stores are dark, and maybe the ice melts in the freezer. All fine. However I sit in the dark thinking about the millions of people who are not so fortunate; who live in not great conditions in the first place, who don’t have the safety and security that we do, who live in areas with lots of crime and violence, who rely on electrical appliances to heat or preserve food, etc. All definitely not fine.

This country is such a conundrum. So glorious on the one hand (today before dinner we went swimming at tide pools at the beach), and such a mess on the other. As someone said, it definitely “gets under your skin” to want to help.

Here are the kids enjoying the dark!

Our Load-Shedding Schedule for tomorrow is below. Don’t expect to hear anything from us during it!

Stage Four: 2-4:30, 10-12:30, 18-20:30

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