It is said that Eskom doen’t like us to talk about blackouts.
The politically-correct term is “previously illuminated areas”.
But when we woke up at about 4:00 am on Friday, with the electricity doing strange things, it wasn’t Eskom’s fault. The lights dimmed, the fan slowed, and then the lights came on again, and the streetlight outside was shining with unnatural brightness.
A few minutes later our dog Ariel came in through my son’s bedroom window, which is usually an indication that there are baddies about. She can be fierce with the postman or the plumbers, but when there are genuine baddies around, she seeks protection.
My son went out with a torch and a big stick to see if anyone had been trying to break in, and while he was out in the garden, two cop cars came roaring down to the end of the road. They asked my son if he had seen anyone, and he said he was still looking, and after a brief conversation among themselves, they roared off again.
Since we were now all well awake, we made coffee, and I began reading my e-mail, and then the lights wen’t off again, suddenly, with no preliminary flickers. After waiting a few minutes to see if they would come on again, I phoned the City of Tshwane electricity department. It takes a couple of minutes to get through — press 1 for this, three for that, 1 for electricity, 1 for power failures, listen to a long spiel from an auntie about Eskom’s rolling blackouts and telling you what web page to look at for the schedule (as if you could look up a web page if you are sitting in a previously illuminated area anyway). Then another plastic auntie asking what suburb you are in, and then asking to confirm that, and finally you get through to a human being.
I said the power was off, told her the street, and said I suspected cable theft. The flickering just before the power finally went off suggested that someone or something was trying to short out the wires. There wasn’t a high wind or a thunderstorm, so it was unlikely to be tree branches. It was not on the hour, so it wasn’t likely to be Eskom’s scheduled load shedding.
Now, 27 hours later, the power has come on again, on Saturday morning. At one point they had about eight lorries of municipal workers there, trying to replace the stolen cable.
And the cops were here!
They did it right under the noses of the cops.
And last night, about 9:30, with the neighbourhood in darkness, no lights, no street lights, nothing, our next-door neighbour’s burglar alarm went off. I phoned to ask if everything was OK, and said I could hear the alarm going off, and then the signal broke up and I couldn’t hear anything they were saying. But it sounded as though they were out, so I called the cops.
Ten minutes later a cop van comes past, goes up the road the other way. I was flashing a torch, and they came back. I told them about the alarm going off in the house next door, and they still dashed off in the opposite direction.
The last couple of days have considerably diminished my confidence in the South African Police Service.