Load-shedding could switch South Africans off the ANC Published


South Africans are experiencing worsening blackouts as winter hits and the crisis is fuelling demands for political change in Africa’s most-advanced economy.

Wiseman Bambatha was indulging in wishful thinking when he named his business Goodhope upholstery.

Mr Bambatha re-conditions sofas and chairs in a dingy, one-room workshop in the sprawling Khayelitsha township on the edge of Cape Town.

But for hours on end, his battered, electric sewing machine sits idle. The power is off in Khayelitsha for eight or 10 hours almost every day. In South Africa they call it load-shedding.

Orders are not being met, customers are angry.

Mr Bambatha grimaces and admits his business is hanging by a thread. It is a story being replayed across the country.

In an already dysfunctional economy, with half of all young adults unemployed, load-shedding is a jobs killer.

“The government has been promising us a better life for years,” says Mr Bambatha, surveying his potholed street, and a vista of corrugated shacks beyond. “Tell me, where is it?”

Khayelitsha is home to more than a million people. When night falls, and the power fails, it is enveloped in an eerie dark, punctuated by street-side braziers.

Cape Town already had the dubious distinction of being the murder capital of Africa – load-shedding and the absence of street lighting has added a new level of menace.

After sundown I meet Mr Bambatha’s wife, Ruby, huddled on a sofa with her two young daughters, all of them illuminated by a flickering candle.