Wednesday, June 24, 2015

I've Seen The Lights Go Out In Broadacres

A sign on the door of a bookstore near where we live
Recently I wrote a post about load shedding, explained what it is and why we have it here in South Africa. Since writing that post, I learned that people in Zimbabwe lose electricity for 8-10 hours a day! That's every single day! Can you imagine? 

Load shedding is frustrating in the moment when you need to do something that requires electricity. Like see in the dark, or work on your computer (the Internet goes down with the power. Obviously you can't open your garage door or go to the ATM when there is no electricity. So yes, it's annoying.

When the power goes out in the U.S., people get very upset because they don't know how long it's going to remain off. Many of us remember Hurricane Sandy or other big storms where electricity was not restored in some areas for weeks. Also, no electricity means no heat and no air conditioning which is a problem after more than a few hours. No electricity in the U.S. might also mean no running water in rural areas. It also likely means no school for many not so disappointed students.

Since load shedding only lasts at maximum four hours at a time in one community, it is certainly less stressful and disruptive here than what I've described above. The main difference is you know when the power is coming back on. That's assuming the whole system hasn't collapsed. We don't have heat in our homes here so that's not an issue. Well, it's an issue but it's not a load shedding related issue. I'm sure it's hot in the summer when you can't use the air con (as it's called here) but people will survive for four hours. Food doesn't go bad in the short time the power is off and we still have water and even hot water during load shedding. School stays in session, it would have to or there would never be any school, and we can put petrol in our cars. So really, it's not that bad. It's the frequency and the underlying causes rather than the severity that are the issues.

Large businesses, hotels, and many restaurants seem to have generators so they can keep running during load shedding. The gate at the complex where we live has a generator so that whole security process still functions. I can imagine though, if you own a small business like a hair salon, restaurant or store that load shedding would be devastating to your ability to make money. In fact, limited economic growth of just 2% in the country was blamed on load shedding based on a recent report from the International Monetary Fund. I am sure that international companies, when determining if they should establish a presence here, take the load shedding issue into account.

What is most interesting about load shedding is how people here react to it, which I would categorize as very well, considering. South African people have a good sense of humor about the whole mess (and about most everything.) Mention load shedding to a South African and you'll get an eye-roll for sure. You might get a few thoughts about President Zuma and Eskom too. But that's it. You probably won't get a whole rant. And you'll likely hear the phrase "what can you do?"

This doesn't mean people don't grasp the seriousness of the problem. It means, what can you do? And the answer is probably not much.

When we were visiting Dullstroom a few weeks back, they were having load shedding. My mom and I met a lady who owned a restaurant and she told us a joke that they think is just hilarious in her family.

Question: What’s electricity?
Answer: Something they have in other countries.
An outdoor store uses load shedding as a marketing angle to sell gear which would normally be used only for camping.
Selfie during recent nighttime load shedding. I hung a torch around my neck and I look a little like Iron Man.

Sign outside a grocery store

KFC web page listing which stores are open during load shedding


  1. Good one. And yes, South Africans are so chilled about it. I retold an anecdote on my blog once about a woman who moved back to Germany and they announced a planned power outage of 5 minutes for weeks on end on the radio, like it was Armageddon or something. So funny. Here a link to what I recently wrote about load-shedding, it's got some more joke pictures:

    1. "The light at the end of the tunnel has been switched off." That's hilarious. Thanks for sharing this post!

    2. My pleasure. I also laughed about that one. And Ncandle...

    3. My pleasure. I also laughed about that one. And Ncandle...

  2. When I move I plan on getting a standby generator that will run the whole house if they have not gotten the reserve capacity built into the grid by then. It is so ridiculous that they have this problem. If the ANC weren't so corrupt they would have been prepared and had it all done years ago.


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Hello and thank you for taking an interest in my blog. This blog tells the story of some big life changes. First, my husband and I have just moved to Geneva, Switzerland for a few months following a few years of living in Johannesburg, South Africa. The two places could not be more different. I'm excited to share our adventures, challenges and insights with you! My thoughts and opinions are my own.