And the loadshedding is back
It is early evening in our corner of Cape Town’s southern Peninsula, in South Africa at the southwestern tip of the African continent before reaching the Atlantic Ocean beyond.
I am busy writing, while the kettle is perched outside on my camping stove in the garden. It is on a picnic table shaded by the fresh green leaves of a grape vine.
Meanwhile, a flock of Cape white eye birds outside the window are busy feasting on the nectar of my pots of Yellow Forest Lilies (Veltheimia bracteata). They are nearing the end of their flowering season and starting to look a little tired, but the white eyes don’t seem to mind.
You might wonder why I am making tea in the garden instead of in the kitchen like most keen tea drinkers.
Loadshedding is back again…
For first-time visitors to South Africa, loadshedding is an unfamiliar concept. It was introduced in 2007 when the country’s national power provider announced that it was no longer able to supply electricity to the entire country at the same time.
Rooted in corruption, a lack of maintenance, theft and vandalism, the economic impact of South Africa’s ever increasing power crisis has been far reaching.
When the dreaded loadshedding is announced, rolling blackouts take place by area according to a schedule, with power outages lasting for several hours at a time.
As soon as that time of the day approaches, coffee is furiously brewed, flasks are filled, candles are set up, and generators thunder into life.
Smoke smelling of boerewors (a type of sausage from South Africa) and sosaties (a Cape Malay dish with meat on skewers) cooking on the braai (barbeque) wafts through the neighbourhood.
In the shopping malls, it is not unusual to end up doing shopping during loadshedding by torchlight.
In the smallest towns, many of the shops are forced to close during loadshedding, bringing small businesses to their knees.
But often those selling wood fired pizza or roosterkoek (traditional South African bread baked on hot coals) as candlelit oases in the desert do a roaring trade.
Each time the power comes back on again, there is a collective sigh of relief. Until the next time the lights go out…