JOHANNESBURG – P.W. Botha cautioned the country about the Swart Gevaar (Black Danger) in the 80s. Since then the nation lived in fear, terrified of this imminent threat.
The former Apartheid president often shook his index finger at the sky and shouted out about the doom and gloom of the looming Swart Gevaar in his thunderous speeches. Finally the Groot Krokodil called for a nationwide state of emergency and put the military as well as security personnel on high alert.
Now, 20 years after the end of Apartheid and 25 years after Botha stepped down due to failing health, South Africans still believe they live in peril. Many respond with an anxious stare and a slight, cowering step backwards at the mere mention of the Swart Gevaar.
“Every night I sit, petrified, thinking that tonight will be the night that it’s going to happen,” shivers Magda du Plooy, a mother of four from Westdene, a suburb of western Johannesburg. “I feed my kids early and send them off to bed. At least, if they’re asleep, the horror won’t scar them too much.”
In suburbs of every major city, people are preparing themselves for what they believe is the inevitable. Many have stocked up on canned food, instant oats and packets of Marie biscuits, as well as gas bottles, candles, or petrol for the generator.
“When it happens, I want to be ready,” says Deon Hanekom, a sales consultant from Rooihuiskraal, Centurion. “I can see it coming. We all know it’s going to happen. It’s just a question of when.”
Despite the nation’s fear, the current administration maintains that the situation is manageable, and that there is no cause for alarm.
Makate Rapulana, spokesman for South Africa’s power and utilities company Eskom, insisted that there is no reason for panic. “While we are unable to control the rolling blackouts, we have no reason to suspect that a nationwide power meltdown is imminent,” Rapulana stated. If we can keep the demand for electricity under control, the situation will remain benign.”
Eskom also claimed that it has a plan to move forward and eradicate the Swart Gevaar entirely. “We are building more power plants, some coal, some nuclear” remarked Rapulana. “Unfortunately that takes time, and it’s going to get much worse before it will get better.”
Not only will it create jobs,” he continued optimistically. “But it will also provide more power to the people. Amandla!”
The government increased the electricity reach from 32% to 85% over the last 20 years. Even though the Swart Gevaar has been severely reduced, the menace is now threatening to launch a full-scale retaliation. “It’s the last kicks of a dying horse,” scowled Rapulana. “Once we’ve finished the construction of the new power plants, the Swart Gevaar will be over indefinitely, for a long, long time. “
In spite of all the government’s efforts to ease the tension, its citizens remain on edge. “They say I mustn’t worry,” moans Rebo Morare, a factory supervisor from Mabopane. “But when I get home, hit the switch and there’s no ‘lectric, I worry. I worry there and then. How can I not worry? In dark times what you do is worry.” BN
Despite being previously disadvantaged, Dumisani managed to achieve the 30% mark required to pass matric. It was enough to enable him to secure his dream job: Being a journalist. Dumisani lives on his couch with his two plants.