I love the poem Living the dash by Linda Ellis. She wrote it in 1996 but it only got published in 2004. It has become a popular poem to remind us that the rush and pressure of corporate life takes away much of the time we have to live between our star(birth) and cross(Death).

In South Africa living the dash has a somewhat different meaning. See, we are living under the pressure of modern life, but with a frustrating twist. Our electrical supply is in grave danger, has been for many years due to neglect, poor management, politics, state capture and corruption. Ja, it is a sad truth, much of what was in good working order when Madiba took over the reigns and we slew the Apartheid monster, has been broken to pieces. South Africa is much like Humpty Dumpty- untogetherputable.

The dash we live by in our beautiful broken country is the Eskom se Push (read that in Afrikaans, and you will understand our sentiment and anger) app on our phones. It publishes and announces what the daily loadshedding schedule will look like. We have a Minister of Electricity. But his job is not electrical supply, it is solely to announce what stage we will live our daily dash. He announced on Monday we will dash at level 6 for the foreseeable future:

It looks like this:

It is 05:44 on a Wednesday morning. Waking up the family to shower, shave and blow dry hair, as our first outage is at 07:00. We have fireplaces to repair, quotes to send, fertilizer to be mixed, household to be run(washing, ironing, vacuuming and such), but the dash will prevent and foil much of our daily activities. Fortunately my daughter has lovely kind friends and her work is mobile, so she can go to their home to utilise their Wi-Fi and power supply. There are more than 40 million other South Africans with their own economy to survive as well. I can only vouch for my perspective, but I believe we all experience the burden of the Eskom dash in similar fashion.

We are working at a clients house to fix a chimney. A generator, which by the way runs on petrol, which by the way costs R24per litre, and cordless drills which by the way runs on rechargeable batteries, which by the way needs electricity supply to charge. We will buy food for our staff, instead of making food at home as we do during a normal week. Take-out is expensive, but what can we do when the outage dash is from 07:00 to 11:30 and the again from 15:00 to 17:30.

O, and look what Thursday entails! Three and a half hours of daytime electricity supply. How kind. At least I will be able to wash, iron and vacuum on Friday morning. Must count my blessings.

An open letter to the powers at be of our loadshitting schedule:

6:45 (I must hurry to publish, the power goes out at 07:00!)

Wednesday 10 May 2023

Dear Minister Sparky and Eishkom

I have searched for ways to live my dash well. But you are not helping. Let me highlight some facts and issues.

1.To live your dash well, one must have a thankful heart. I am grateful for this new God-given day. Bur really, how must thankfulness trump powerlessness? I cannot write during the broken days, unless I do it longhand with pen on paper, and then I must use a new God-given day to rewrite it on the computer. You see we live digitally now… and if the power is off, no Wi-Fi, no Wi-Fi means no internet, no Internet, no WordPress connectivity…

2. To live a quality dash, it is good to ask for forgiveness. Will you please let me know what transgression was committed that we deserve the punishment meted out by loadshedding? We voted, your party won, you rule. Is that not enough?

3. The people who are in the know of living the dash say we must forgive. Please, you are forgiven for imposing loadshedding on us, but please stop already. We cannot forgive and forgive and forgive. Please remember voting day is around the corner, and unforgiving hearts can do terrible things.

4. We spend our time planning around power outages. Is that a free and meaningful life? I think not

5. One plus is that you help us to create quality family time. The TV is a blank space, it’s rule limited, we talk more, we play Scrabble by candle light, we laugh and regale old stories, and we drink wine… (That can become a problem, methinks)

6. We spend more time outside, in long grass, as we cannot mow the lawn. Gonna get me some sheep or a cow or goats… make cheese and butter while they mow the lawn…haha.

7. Living the dash well, means leaving phones, tablets and laptops to spend time connecting with people you care for. Eyeballing people in real time. That is realtionship. I thank you Minister Sparky and Eishkom for saving friendships and family relationships. But enough already. I have learnt my lesson.

8. As for other things to live live well I am ok. Love my family, my pets, nature. I am a charitable person, albeit poorer after the pandemic and due to loss of sales thanks to loadshedding.

9. The experts say a well-lived dash excludes arguing about politics. I will be quiet, and not pick a fight, but remember I still have to cast my vote next year. The pen is mightier than the sword, nè.

You are impinging on my human rights, my freedom to make good choices to live my dash well. Hey wêna*- stop that now.

Not so sincere regards