The candle generation may now shed a lot of fun

After a long but deserved break, here is to all the Slice of Life faithful: have a great 2008 despite the spectre of load-shedding.

After a long but deserved break, here is to all the Slice of Life faithful: have a great 2008 despite the spectre of load-shedding.

Initially, I thought "load-shedding" was an IT expression, such as "byte" or "log-on", you see. Little did I fathom it was another way to describe power cuts, that they were here to stay, unless a 21st century Thomas Edison is found now or before 2014, by which time the hapless Eskom hopes it would have reached the light at the end of the tunnel.

I will endeavour to steer clear of the debate on why South Africa is systematically plunging into darkness and everyone, black and white, suffers equally.

Blacks should know better when it comes to living in darkness. Until not so long ago and for 50 years under apartheid rule, the country's majority lived without electricity in the townships and rural areas. It was "normal".

And as always, humans will make the best of life in the face of adversity. While non-blacks would use candles for romantic dinners or other cosy occasions, those thin white wax sticks were like gold in the sprawling matchbox locations across the land. Ask many in the informal settlements today and they will tell you they have never heard of load-shedding.

Yes, that's how it was then, when most of those in the corridors of power in Pretoria, Cape Town and in industry burnt the midnight candles to be where they are now.

These political leaders and captains of industry, some of whom run Eskom today, obviously were part of the candle generation.

Some might still remember the tough days when, as children, they would run to Mapea's General Store down the muddy street to buy two candles at 10c each because the old lady could not afford a whole packet. Enough just to illuminate the most-used of the three or four-roomed houses; and maybe even save them for the next day.

Then there was also paraffin. Many used it for their little lamps and the single hotplate equivalent of the township. Remember the treasured Primus stove? In the absence of coal, in many households it doubled up as a heater and for cooking.

Point is: it might have been "normal" . It was hard then.

It was for this reason that these powerful men and women in government and business sacrificed their youth to give power to the people.

Of course, they fought to put out the candles, so that, like the non-blacks, we should all today enjoy them for their romantic or aromatic and healing effectiveness or even religious purposes.

But no, it looks like it is back to those bad old days for those who have now become accustomed to the joys of electricity.

To the blacks in the townships the feeling right now might be, "oh well, it was too good to be true, we still suffered frequent cuts before load-shedding anyway".

Imagine missing the final goal when Teko Modise wins the 2010 Fifa World Cup because your TV just died on you, because it was your area's turn to load-shed and the backup generator misfired?

That's too ghastly to contemplate. Was it the Groot Krokodil who said that? Or one John Voster? Eish!