LOAD-SHEDDING

If you are not a South African, you will probably find it difficult to understand that the national power provider (Eskom) is not always able to provide sufficient power for the whole country’s needs and so they switch the power off! This has been going on for some years now: usually we are given some warning – we even get a schedule of the times during which we will have no power, although we cannot tell whether or not this is going to be implemented at stage one or two or three as the situation can change at any time. What makes it worse in our town is that so little maintenance is done here that when the wind blows strongly, branches fall across power lines or cables snap and the call goes out on the local WhatsApp groups “surely this isn’t load-shedding?” and the battle begins to get the municipal electricians to get on with the job of restoring the power.

Eskom has given us a respite for several months and then the dreaded load-shedding returned with a vengeance. On a typical day we could have no power from eleven in the morning until half past one in the afternoon and then again from seven until half past nine in the evening on the same day! Okay, there are days now and then when the power is off for only one session.

Last night our president was scheduled to address the nation at eight o’clock about changes to our lockdown conditions. The press had been buzzing with speculation about us getting more ‘breathing space’ in terms of restrictions being lifted. It happened to be a very cold night and I was ensconced under a blanket, had a cup of tea at the ready and was knitting as the scheduled time drew closer. Tick, tick, tick … at three minutes to eight the power went off!

“No guys, do we seriously have load-shedding now?” pinged the first message on the group – the country had been assured there would be no load-shedding over the weekend.

“Anyone else have a power failure right now?” So the messages pinged in, one after the other.

“The Fire Department [whom we contact after hours about such emergencies] says they don’t know what is wrong but the electrician will investigate.” There is some comfort in that.

“It’s a widespread outage, not load-shedding [various other suburbs are mentioned]”. Good, at least we are not the only ones.

I scrabbled around for a motley collection of candles so that I could resume my knitting. This is what they looked like shortly before the power was restored exactly an hour later.

So, we missed the president’s speech here and had to wait for news updates to learn that as from midnight tomorrow we will at last (since March) be able to enjoy family visits [not too often though, comes the official caution], and to purchase alcohol and tobacco products. Another positive sign is the opening of provincial borders as well as pubs and restaurants [the finer details of the latter two are still to be clarified]. It proved to be a dark hour with double light at the end: electricity and good news [or better than usual news] for a change!