South Africa is in an energy crisis. Electricity is cut off every day – and the poorest are the hardest hit.
A busy intersection in Johannesburg’s Soweto township, next to the house that once housed freedom fighter Nelson Mandela. Tourists come here which is why it helps that tailor Nani Zondo sells her creations of African fabrics here.
But she can no longer make much: “I can no longer accept work because I cannot do it if I can only use the sewing machine for one hour a day. The electricity crisis is throwing our income into the sea.”
According to South Africa’s electricity minister, load shedding destroyed more than 650,000 jobs last year. According to the Central Bank of South Africa, the economy is losing the equivalent of more than 40 million Swiss francs every day.
The worst is yet to come
South African women like Nanny Zondo, who lives in the townships, have been hardest hit by the electricity crisis. They cannot afford their own back-up electricity: “Most of my neighbors can hardly afford food. Buying a generator is a luxury. And then we didn’t talk about the fuel you have to buy to run the generator.”
Even those who can afford to run a generator have to pay huge sums to do so. Supermarket chains and hospitals spent tens of millions on diesel last year.
But the energy crisis is not over yet. The cold South African winter is approaching: “We have to prepare because it will definitely get worse.”
In the winter, temperatures sometimes drop below freezing. Heating requires electricity, the cost of gas stoves. The worst is yet to come for South Africa.
Incredible amounts of electricity backup
Anna Leimenmeier, SRF Africa correspondent: “South Africans have to spend incredible amounts of money on their energy reserves. This is to maintain cold chains, supermarkets or even morgues. The internet also doesn’t work during ‘load shedding’ because the phone towers also run on electricity And it doesn’t have a backup yet.But safety is also a big issue.
The crime rate in South Africa is very high. Many people live behind high electric fences with alarm systems – and they don’t even work if there’s no electricity. What’s more, unlike other African countries that did not have a national electricity grid, South Africa’s economy and society are completely electrified. South Africa is the most industrialized country on the continent. Since electricity was available almost everywhere in the country before, a step back is much more difficult.”
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