South Africa’s Electricity Crisis: Four Full Months of Power Cuts Fueling Violent Crime | world news

South Africa is in the throes of an electricity crisis.

This year alone, the hours of power outages across the country are equivalent to four full months.

According to the app that monitors power outages, EskomSePush, this is 200% worse than any other year.

The electricity utility, Eskom, blames an aging fleet of coal-fired power plants which are constantly breaking down.

These stations generate just over half of their capacity, as the demand for electricity constantly exceeds the supply.

Shortages are expected to worsen as major units, such as the Koeberg nuclear power plant, are taken out of service for maintenance.

Eskom warned South Africans expect prolonged periods of power outages for the foreseeable future and is currently implementing its highest levels of “load shedding” – leaving residents without power for at least five hours a day.

A general view of Eskom’s Medupi coal-fired power station is seen near Lephalale

Highest crime rates in the city center

In a country with some of the highest downtown crime rates in the world, nighttime power outages have harmed public safety.

“It’s dark and we have more thefts happening, more burglaries happening.

“We have more complaints coming in. There’s so much unemployment right now, it’s just chaotic.

“Anyone would do anything for anything. It’s really, really hard to keep him safe.

Cars drive above an intersection controlled by traffic lights during a power outage in Johannesburg.  Photo: AP
Cars drive above an intersection controlled by traffic lights during a power outage in Johannesburg. Photo: AP

“So now the load shedding kicks in and it’s suddenly 50% harder,” says Happy Raphela, a community patroller in Alexandra – one of Johannesburg’s most dangerous townships.

Here the community has come together to patrol, to keep crime levels low.

Armed only with torches and walkie-talkies, they go street by street to answer the complaints of the inhabitants.

“Our government only cares about our votes, but when it comes to power cuts, they don’t care because they only live in their suburbs.

“I know some of them are experiencing these power cuts but their homes are well secured, they have security guards.

“Here, we don’t have security guards, we only have ourselves,” explains Lefa Buthelezi, another patrol officer.

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A restaurant uses candles due to regular power cuts from Eskom, South Africa's struggling electricity utility - called
A restaurant uses candles due to regular power cuts from Eskom, South Africa’s struggling electricity utility

Even the streetlights don’t stay on

Battery-powered generators and alarm systems kept residents of wealthier areas safe.

But in Alexandra, assaults and thefts are frequent in the dark hours of power cuts. Even streetlights don’t stay on when the power is off.

Zothile Ncala has lived in Alexandra all his life. The 34-year-old mother of three was attacked on her way home one evening during power cuts.

She had her phone stolen and kicked her pregnant wife in the stomach.

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“This guy, he came from the back, the other one he was walking in front of me.

“I felt like I lost my baby. But I had to be strong to save my child and then that’s where I survived.

“We pray for everything that is happening in this country,” Zothile says.

But hope is fading as budget cuts deepen and communities bear the brunt of economic inequality.


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