What to do During a Power Failure in South Africa


Power failures, a regular feature of life in Johannesburg for some years now, have begun to pester Capetonians in recent months, too. (Click here for more on the country’s power shortage woes.) Now, because SA’s sole nuclear reactor (Koeberg, outside Cape Town) is in need of maintenance, regular power cuts across South Africa have been forecast. The coal-burning and hydroelectric plants elsewhere in the country won’t be able to pick up the slack. Call it darkness creep.

SA Blog comes to the rescue with this handy guide on What to Do During a Power Failure in South Africa.

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The first thing to do, naturally, is take proactive steps like printing out this post before the power fails. Then refer to the advice below.

  • Tune into a local radio station. They have backup generators (and thus stay on air), ascertain the extent of the problem within the first few minutes of lights-out, and prevent feelings of isolation and despair. In Cape Town, turn on Cape Talk 567 MW (AM), or KFM 94.5 FM; in Jo’burg, turn on 702 Talk Radio 702 MW; in Durban, turn on East Coast Radio 94.5 FM, or Lotus FM 87.7 FM.

  • Get home quick. On a Friday, start the weekend early. Power failures tend to last several hours, and roads become fairly chaotic without traffic lights – although police point men and women usually arrive at their assigned intersections promptly.
  • Eat wood-fired pizza for lunch or supper. Many pizza restaurants stay open during outages, because their pizza ovens don’t use electricity. (Have you tried peppadew as a topping yet? Delicious!) If you’re not near a pizza joint, call Mr. Delivery, which may be able to bring food to you. If you don’t like pizza, have a braai.
  • Cook with gas! Click here for help finding a gas stove. (Especially useful for brewing comforting cups of tea.)
  • Call the police. In an emergency – bearing in mind that police, ambulance and fire services will likely be under fairly intense pressure – call 10177 from a ground-line telephone, or 107 from a mobile phone. For private medical assistance, call Netcare on 082 911.
  • Borrow candles. Don’t be shy: knock or ring and ask your neighbor for a little help with light.
  • Make love. Without electricity, it’s primitive, romantic and exciting! If you’re by yourself during the outage, alas, then try Zen Buddhist meditation. By tomorrow morning, the lights should be back on, and either way you’ll feel pretty good.

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