I’m tired of the term ‘load-shedding’. In isiZulu, it’s borrowed wholesale: i-load-shedding. That makes me like it even less.

It’s a euphemism, which is one figure of speech governments use with amazing liberty in order to fudge their errors and make their distasteful utterances slightly more palatable.

They are called blackouts. Entire neighbourhoods have their power shut off for hours at a time, offering izinyoka every opportunity to steal some copper risk-free. A high altitude vantage-point would be great – like watching whole swathes of neurons in a dying brain, going out in clumps.

The fact that the blackouts are caused to occur in order to “shed the load” on our struggling electricity grid is actually irrelevant, other than that it means the blackout is done on purpose. It means there’s somebody flicking switches somewhere, choosing which neurons die.

What brought me to this conclusion? Standing in a large wholesale shop on the East Rand (you know who you are), I noticed a slight flicker to the lights, and a slight addition to the overall reverberation of noise. Hm, I thought, at least they have generators. This feeling of relief was soon replaced by one of inexplicable frustration upon finding that my entire trolley-load had to be abandoned, as none of the card systems were working.

On my way out, channeling my anger with some Arctic Monkeys, I remembered that there is an isiZulu word for a blackout. It comes from the Second World War, so don’t be surprised if nobody under 70 knows the word.

umnyamangabomu. a-darkness-on-purpose.