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Four full months of power cuts fuelling violent crime amid South Africa’s electricity crisis

South Africa is currently in the grips of an electric crisis.

The country has had four months of uninterrupted power outages in the past year.

EskomSePush is an app that monitors power cuts. This year, it’s 200% worse than any previous year.

Eskom, the state power utility blames an aging fleet of coal fired stations that consistently fail to function.


These stations produce little more than half of their capacity, as power demand is always greater than supply.

As major units like the nuclear power station Koeberg are shut down for maintenance, shortages are likely to increase.

Eskom has warned South Africans to expect long periods of power outages in the near future. It is currently implementing its highest levels “load-shedding”, which means residents will be without electricity for at most five hours per day.

Image An overview of Eskom’s Medupi coal fired power station can be seen near Lephalale

Highest rates of inner-city crime

Night-time power outages have been detrimental to public safety in a country where there are some of the highest rates of inner-city crime.

“It’s dark, and there are more robberies happening, more burglaries happening.

“We have more complaints than ever. It’s chaotic because there’s so much unemployment right now.

“Anyone would do any thing for anything. It is very difficult to keep it safe.

Image: Cars move over a traffic-controlled intersection in Johannesburg during a power cut. Pic by AP

“So now load-shedding is in and it’s just about 50% harder all of the sudden,” Happy Raphela, a community guardian in Alexandra – one Johannesburg’s most dangerous townships.

The community has gathered to help patrol the area to reduce crime.

They are equipped with only walkie-talkies and torchlights, and go street to street to respond to residents’ complaints.

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

“I know that some of these people experience power cuts, but their homes are well-secured and they have security guards.

Lefa Buthelezi, another security guard, says, “Here, we don’t need security guards. We only have ourselves.”

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Image A restaurant uses candles because of South Africa’s power utility Eskom frequent power cuts

Streetlights are not allowed to stay on

People living in more affluent areas have been kept safe by generators and battery-backed alarm system.

In Alexandra, theft and assaults are common during dark hours due to power cuts. Even streetlights are not able to stay on when there is no power.

Zothile Ncala grew up in Alexandra and has lived there her entire life. The mother of three, aged 34, was attacked as she returned home from work one evening due to power cuts.

She was robbed from her phone, and her pregnant stomach was kicked in.

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“That guy, that he came at my back, the other one was walking in front of him.

“I felt like I lost my baby. But I was determined to save my baby, and that’s how I survived.

Zothile says, “We are praying that everything in this country will be well.”

As cuts get worse and communities feel the brunt economic inequality, there is little hope.


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