Citizen Voices

Surviving Load Shedding

Load shedding is an annoyance that cannot be avoided in South Africa at the moment. Grahamstown has, along with the rest of the country, been experiencing black outs over the past few months. Megan Whittington provides some insight into dealing with load shedding in Grahamstown.

I was editing an old manuscript of my grandmother’s when I experienced my first Eskom-induced blackout in Grahamstown. It was precisely 6pm and it had been an overcast day, which meant that it was almost completely dark outside. I was keen to get more editing done before the term ended, so I did a quick stock take to see what could keep me going for the next two and a half hours. I had a battery operated lamp, but the batteries were flat. I had scented candles, but I was hesitant to burn them as they were more for decorative purposes. And that was it. I hadn’t thought to charge any electronics and so I found myself in the unusual position of having nothing to do. Deciding that I’d rather not sit alone in the dark, I made my way over to some friends who lived downstairs.

I knocked on the door, and when it opened, I was surprised to see that the entire space was lit. The light, I noticed, was coming from about ten long white candles, each of which was propped upright in a wine bottle. I sat down and was offered a cup of tea from the kettle which had been boiled shortly before the power went off. We sat in a lit room as if it had been powered by electricity and enjoyed our tea together.

The next day, I went out and bought an inexpensive pack of long white candles, which I broke in half. I also asked my friend for a few spare wine bottles so that I would be prepared for the next time load shedding struck. Since then, I have thought more about how to prepare for blackouts and compiled some tips to share with the citizens of Makana:

  1. Look up the load-shedding schedule for Grahamstown, so that you can plan in advance. This can be found here:
  2. Turn on your geyser in advance so that it has time to warm up before the power is cut out. I’ve found that load shedding is an excellent excuse to enjoy a candle lit bubble bath.
  3. Have a torch or emergency light stored somewhere that is easy to find in the dark.
  4. Charge your electronics in advance, especially your cellphone in case there is an emergency.
  5. Make sure that you have matches or a lighter to light your candles.
  6. Investin a battery operated light that can be attached to your wall, particularly if you tend to work at night.
  7. Have some activities that don’t require electricity ready for you and your family/housemates. Board games like 30 Seconds are a good option.
  8. If you’re like me and can’t go an evening without tea; fill a flask with enough boiling water to keep you going through the blackout.
  9. If you have a gas stove, you can light it manually to cook a meal or even boil some water if you don’t own a flask. If it’s a cold evening, you could boil a large pot of water as a substitute for a heater.
  10. You could have a completely electricity free meal with friends and family. Braaing requires no electricity and you could have a chocolate fondue for dessert. This only requires a small candle and a fondue bowl, inexpensive versions of which can be found at shops like Checkers and Clicks.

It has been hinted that load shedding could last for up to seven years; so don’t let it put your life on hold – be prepared.


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