South Africans learn to laugh at lighter side of blackouts

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By Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo

JOHANNESBURG  – Facing a long, cold southern hemisphere winter of power cuts, many South Africans are choosing to cope with their frustrations by seeing the lighter side of life in the dark.

Africa’s most advanced is in the throes of its worst electricity crisis since 2008, with residents subjected to frequent blackouts as power utility Eskom battles to avoid total grid shut down.

Electricity outages are expected to last until 2017 and the government says the knock-on effects could cut 1 percent from economic growth this year.

A wave of crisis-related jokes have sprung up on social and the stand-up comedy circuit, exemplifying South Africans’ ability to humour to cope with adversity.

“Eskom is the only business that pleads with you not to use their product,” one comedian observed. Social media users have latched onto handles like #eishkom. ‘Eish’ is a widely used exclamation of resigned indignation in South Africa.

“What did South Africa use before candles? Electricity,” goes another joke.

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The power crisis has also been called the “50 shades of darkness”, in reference to the erotic Hollywood movie “50 Shades of Grey”, as some people joke that having the lights off sparks romance.

“Wonder how many babies will there be next year?” one comment on a Facebook page set up to share jokes about electricity shortages.