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Eskom apologises to Karoo residents as power restored after two weeks of grid failure

Eskom apologises to Karoo residents as power restored after two weeks of grid failure
Doreen Freeman shows Daily Maverick her empty freezer that has been switched off for 12 days with the extended power outage in Ladismith. 15 February 2024. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Eskom restored electricity on Thursday to Central Karoo towns that had been left with power for almost two weeks after a storm damaged infrastructure. Residents found all sorts of tricks to keep their lives from falling apart, with one kid telling his grandma - 'if you want my clothes neat, put them under my mattress.'

Residents of Ladismith in the Western Cape breathed a sigh of relief after their electricity was restored on Thursday. Ladismith was one of several towns in the Northern Cape and Western Cape left without electricity for almost two weeks after gale-force winds and heavy rain damaged Eskom’s Laingsburg/Touwsrivier 132kV power lines on Saturday, 3 February.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Central Karoo towns in critical scramble for water, generators after storms kill power supply

The affected towns were Sutherland, Fraserberg and Roggeveld in the Northern Cape and Laingsburg, Ladismith, Leeu-Gamka, Swartberg, Merweville, Matjiesfontein and Prince Albert in Western Cape.

Daily Maverick visited Ladismith as Eskom workers prepared to switch the electricity back on after repairing the broken infrastructure.  

At 8am, someone shouted, “Die kantien se krag is aan, maar die kos winkel is nog af  [The bottle store’s electricity is on, but the food shop’s is still off]” as power returned to business and residential premises.

lights on karoo hossain

Shopowner Feroj Hossain says he lost more than R2,000 worth of frozen fish, seafood and vegetables stored in his freezers. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Shopkeeper Feroj Hossain said: “It’s nice [having power again] because without electricity life is too complicated.”

He had to throw away stock worth R2,000 — including frozen fish and vegetables — after it began rotting.

In another part of Ladismith, Nissenville, sat Doreen Freeman. She did not realise the power was back on until Daily Maverick told her it had been restored.

lights on karoo towns

Doreen Freeman says she grew up on a farm and is accustomed to living without power. She used her coal stove (in the background) during the extended power outage in Ladismith. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

She quickly got up and checked her electricity box. She then plugged in her refrigerator and its hum rang through her house. Freeman said was used to having no power as she had grown up on a farm without electricity. 

However, the power outage had its difficulties: her son and her grandchild needed ironed clothes for work and school. Laughing, she said her grandchild had given her a  powerless survival tip: “Grandma, if you want my clothes neat, put them under my mattress.” She followed his advice.

lights on karoo towns

Business owner Jan-Dirk Brak runs the local pharmacy in Ladismith. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Back in town, business owner Jan-Dirk Brak said it was “surreal” when the power came back. Brak and his husband run a pharmacy. While the couple have solar power at home on a nearby farm, their shop’s generator helped them to continue operating the business and to charge workers’ and customers’ phones during the outage. 

lights on karoo towns

A woman walks past a generator in Ladismith. Power was restored on 15 February after 12 days of power outage. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

On Thursday morning, Eskom’s general manager of the Cape Coastal Cluster, Mbulelo Yedwa, said: “Eskom employees worked together to plan, plot, and execute the successful construction process.” 

Eskom said the affected areas would be exempt from load shedding until 26 February. 

“Eskom apologises to the customers from Sutherland, Roggeveld, Laingsburg, Ladismith, Leeu-Gamka, Swartberg, Merweville, Matjiesfontein, Prince Albert, Fraserburg and surrounding areas for the inconvenience during this time and thanks them for their patience and support,” the power utility said. DM

Watch out for more followup reports from Daily Maverick on what it is like to live in a town when there is a  total power collapse. 


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