We need loads more words to shed light on Eskom’s failure
There's a dizzying number of reasons for power cuts, so it's time to ditch the old 'load shedding' euphemism
For a while, load shedding worked.
I don’t mean the technical procedure whereby Eskom cuts the power to various parts of South Africa. I mean the description of that process, that phrase that is now so familiar that it trips off our tongues as if it actually means something.
“Load shedding” was one of the finest euphemisms this government ever came up with, right alongside “the Department of Education” and “President Zuma”.
What “load shedding” meant, of course, was “de-industrialisation”, but it sounded like going to the spa for a massage. Exhausted by the irksome burden of building stuff and producing stuff? Worn out by the relentlessness of having to keep the light on? Let go. Let that weight slip off your shoulders. Shed that load ...
Yes, “load shedding” was a great label for a while.
The problem is that it’s no longer fit for purpose.Back when it was first coined in 2008, “load shedding” seemed like a solid term for a simple event: a managed power failure. We naively believed that Eskom knew what it was doing, and that they’d had to switch off the lights for a good reason.
Ten years later, we’re older and wiser. We know that “load shedding” can happen for a dizzying variety of reasons. Which is why it’s time to broaden the lexicon.
To this end, I would like to propose the following new terms, all variations on a theme of load shedding but tailor-made to suit the various ways Eskom manages to fail:
The lights are off because the coal is damp: “shed leaking”.
The lights are off because they still haven’t finished Medupi: “load shirking”.
The lights are off because somebody didn’t pay the right Gupta: “loot shifting”.
The lights are off because Eskom workers are striking: “shift offloading”.
The lights are off because Eskom has run out of money: “loan shredding”.
The lights are off because something tripped at the Koeberg nuclear reactor: “rod glowing”.
The lights are off because the ANC Capturati are trying to force through a deal with Russia to build dodgy nuclear reactors: “overload pending”.
The lights are off but nobody knows why: “loud shouting”.
And that about covers it. Well, at least for now. In a year or two there will be new reasons for the power going out: the dog ate Eskom’s homework; the coal is counter-revolutionary; the electricity got lost in the post ...
For now, though, stay warm, stock up on candles, and remember the good old days of uncomplicated load shedding, when Guptas and Russian nukes were just a twinkle in Jacob’s watery little eye...