In South Africa, a dark and black Christmas

Christmas lights in Cape Town.

South Africans celebrated Christmas Day for the first time in two years with no Covid-19 restrictions but festive joy for many was dampened by escalating power crisis and rising inflation.

"Last year this time, we had a red notice because of Covid-19 variants. Many people can now travel to attend sports and musical events," Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, chief executive officer of Tourism Business Council of South Africa, told Xinhua.

Load shedding, however, is affecting people negatively in a big way and impacting all sectors of the economy including restaurants, hotels, lodges, and all types of businesses, Tshivhengwa said. 

Power blackouts in South Africa are at their worst, with more than 160 days of load shedding in 2022.

The situation escalated recently, with businesses and families having to endure as long as seven hours without electricity in a day.

"Many businesses have to buy generators and diesel, or provide alternative sources of energy to keep operating," Tshivhengwa said. 

"Due to load shedding, cash only. Only two customers are allowed, thank you by management” is the message posted outside a closed door of a clothing store in Johannesburg's CBD shopping centre, Carlton Center. As a result of load shedding, the store's interior looked dark.

David Oze, who runs a small business that fixes laptops and mobile phones on Eloff Street, said they have had to turn away clients because they cannot do repairs without electricity

"Without load shedding, this place is very busy in December, but now we have to tell people we can't help them with everything," Oze said, adding that they share their generator with two tenants from Bangladesh and Pakistan.

In addition to businesses, ordinary citizens are also feeling the inconvenience caused by power blackouts.

"Load shedding is a headache. Some of us do not have money to buy generators, thus having to spend some of our festive time in the dark," said Pule Sekobela from Soweto township, close to Johannesburg.

Sekobela also complained about the rising inflation. "We use this time to bond. We used to prepare food, drinks, and beer to have a family reunion at this time. But the food and drinks are very expensive, and we are really struggling," he told Xinhua.

Prices have been soaring in the country since the beginning of this year with notable increases in fuel, food and transport.

Mitta Mojela from Limpopo Province said she is happy that they are celebrating Christmas without restrictions and masks; however, food and transport prices are too high this Christmas.

The same sentiment was shared by Ngqabutho Mabhena, chairperson of the Zimbabwean Community in South Africa, who said while some Zimbabweans went home, some failed because they did not have money to cover transport costs.

Official data from Statistics South Africa showed that the consumer price index, a key gauge of inflation, stood at 7.4 percent in November.

Looking forward to the upcoming 2023, Tshivhengwa said they expect next year to be better in terms of economic growth.