Laughing it off

When I was going through my social media pages I saw something that caught my eye in a humorous way. It was a comment referring to the load shedding schedules by the South African power authority Eskom in early March.

The person remarked “There are too many Zimbabweans in Durban for real. When the electricity came back, I heard them shouting yeeeee, magetsi adzoka (yeeees, electricity is back!)” The comment makes light of the way many Zimbabweans have been conditioned to deal with problems – laugh it off, see if there is anything in the problem that can personally benefit you and pursue it. Then if the problem is eventually solved, be happy and move on.

In sharp contrast, there was much anger and disappointment from South Africans on the decision by Eskom to introduce load shedding.

It became a talking point everywhere – making media headlines. People scrambled to get hold of shedding schedules for their areas. The last widespread blackouts here were in 2008 and the country had been dreading another episode.

As soon as Brian Dames, Eskom’s CEO, announced that the blackouts would be implemented, the hashtag #load shedding began trending on twitter, with people using it to vent out their anger and share information on the schedules. One angry user wrote; “Load shedding is here again at a great cost to the economy coupled with high petrol prices increased interest rates.

This is why we need change.” An Eskom representative reported on national radio that their call centre was inundated with calls and was barely coping, with citizens wanting to find out when this precious commodity would be back in their affected areas, when it would be going and for how long.

This kind of panic naturally amused me. I suppose it also entertained the other 50% of South Africans who do not have electricity anyway – so blackouts mean absolutely nothing to them.

At one point, in my hometown Harare, we lived with no electricity for over six months because transformer oil had been stolen. In the sixth months, residents came together and decided they would contribute money to buy the oil. The amount was out of reach for most people, but they paid all the same. Electricity was restored within a week, only for the transformer or the transformer oil to be stolen again within three days! It was time for a different solution to the problem – and calling ZESA was certainly not one of them.

I have also watched with interest when citizens of my host country fight tooth and nail when there is no access to water or other basic services.

They don’t go to work, prevent those who want to go and demonstrate day in and day out until these services are restored. If they are not, they continue to demonstrate until someone says something about their plight. Our home in Harare has not had water for over five years and every other household has resorted to drilling boreholes. Perhaps it would have been a different scenario if the community could not afford this option and had gone out demonstrating.

The disparity between how Zimbabweans and other people handle the same problems has been very thought-provoking. Commentators have come up with various explanations as to why Zimbabweans behave the way they do in the face of adversity.

Is it too much education, passivity, fear, stupidity – or resilience that reflects admirable strength of character?

We have yet to see if this so-called strength of character will be beneficial to us in the long run.

Post published in: World News

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