In South Africa, ‘load shedding’ takes a toll on small businesses

In the five years since Corner Cafe opened its doors a few metres away from the South African Parliament building in Cape Town’s central business district, it has become a popular meeting place for politicians, researchers and other locals.

But less than two years after the COVID-19 pandemic flattened business in the area and led to many closing shops, Prisca Horonga, the cafe’s owner, who works up to 12 hours and employs three people, says it is facing another existential crisis.

Since 2022, there have been scheduled blackouts, or load shedding, across the country for as long as 10 hours per day at a time.

“You have to wait until the power returns … we cannot afford a generator, so we lose clients all the time,” 32-year-old Horonga, originally from Zimbabwe, told Al Jazeera.

In the same district, beautician Nadine Iqani, who has been in operation for the past 15 years, has similar worries. In the past decade, she has managed to juggle her schedule to accommodate clients despite the blackouts, but she says things have worsened in the last year.

“I am making a third of the income pre-the load shedding times, and I have clients shouting at me,” she told Al Jazeera. “It is just a nightmare … working long hours, including weekends, to accommodate clients.”

Now, Iqani is considering saving for an inverter battery system.

Many small business owners like her and Horonga say they are close to buckling under the pressure of the crippling power cuts.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here