A ruskansie by any other name


Countries that hug the Mediterranean, such as Spain, Italy and Greece, or those in Latin America like Brazil or Colombia, are well-known for their post-lunch kips. In Spanish-influenced countries, they’re called siestas. In Italy, locals call it riposo. On the other side of the world, in China, workers cradle their heads in their arms and sleep at their desks.

But here in South Africa, we have a different term for an often involuntary nap: it’s called load-shedding. Eskom is doing its bit to get South Africa sleeping again.

Working remotely from home in Cape Town this week, a city already known for its almost horizontal laid-back attitude, I fell victim to government-issued narcolepsy.

Just as I was readying myself to tuck into delivering hard-hitting journalism, the sandman known as Eskom visited my neighbourhood.

Being the proud procrastinator-in-chief I am, I was not prepared. I had no power banks or charged laptops. I couldn’t watch television and with the washing machine and other appliances temporarily out of commission, I had sufficient excuse to tell my wife I couldn’t do household chores.

“I can use the time to catch up on some reading,” I thought to myself. But then a yawn, and then another, and then a big yaaaaawn overpowered me. The spirit of Brian “Morpheus” Molefe had come to take me.

And what a lekker tiep it was. A revolutionary rapid eye movement. This young lion snored. Drool dripped down slowly like bad neoliberal, free-market trickle-down economics. My diaphragm pushed my belly up and down as if it was the volatile rand. Afterwards, I stretched like a South African consumer trying to make his or her salary last all the way to month-end.

The health benefits of an afternoon lala are well documented. Researchers say even a 15-minute snooze can increase cognitive performance and is better than an afternoon caffeine fix to get you through the mid-afternoon slump.

But although this is good news for mental rejuvenation, a 2015 United States National Institutes for Health research paper indicates it may not be good for your heart, because data has shown links between long afternoon naps and cardiovascular disease.

And so, like many things, the government giveth and it taketh away. Bad news for sleeping beauties like me — and the Rip van Winkles sitting in the National Assembly chamber for the State of the Nation address debate this week. Casting an eye from the media gallery over the House, several MPs were seen catching flies. Some were blatant. Head dropped back, mouth slightly agape. I could almost hear the guttural throat noises of a stifled snore.

Others were tactical. Elbow on folded knee with thumb and forefinger squeezing their glabella. That’s the piece of skin between your eyebrows. A moment of silent prayer or meditation is what we cat-nappers call it.

I don’t blame them. The debates ran on for hours and because members’ desks are made to be as comfortable as possible for hard-working legislators, a few moments to rest one’s eyes is understandable. Only to be stirred from their slumber by cries of “Order!” and applause from mostly opposition benches when one of their own finished their speech.

And whereas the bruising nine years of the Jacob Zuma presidency brought a liveliness to the national theatre of parliamentary politics, the docile days of Cyril Ramaphosa ushered in some much-needed “boring” but respectable politics. Some rest and respite from midday Cabinet reshuffles, and late-night press releases.

In Croatia’s Dalmatia region, they have a term for a midday doss. They call it fjaka. I propose South Africa expropriates the term without compensation and call it a fjakansie, a sleep holiday.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Lester Kiewit
Lester Kiewit
Lester Kiewit is a Reporter, Journalist, and Broadcaster.

Related stories

The solar energy market will grow if innovative business models are developed

Southern African suppliers should consider entering into partnerships with financiers to offer off-grid, hybrid and prepaid solutions to customers

Eskom’s emissions are not compatible with the South African constitution

The government must not cave to Eskom’s demand that it be exempt from air pollution rules. Furthermore, the power utility needs to stay true to the principles of its own just transition strategy

Ramaphosa: We want investment pledges to translate into new jobs

To move out of South Africa’s economic funk, Ramaphosa is prioritising the materialisation of pledges made at the previous investment conferences.

The world’s warriors are under attack, but we must keep on fighting

The murder of Fikile Ntshangase in KwaZulu-Natal was not an isolated incident. Around the globe, from Nigeria to Brazil, environmental activists are similarly being silenced, and it is our duty to continue this struggle

Fossil fuel support lands SA in the G20 dog box

South Africa has been ranked the second worst performer of the G20 non-OECD member countries, behind Saudi Arabia, for its lack of transparency and continued support for fossil production, fossil-fuel based power and consumption of fossil fuels

Barbara Creecy: ‘You can make a difference if you want to’

The minister of environment, forestry and fisheries, likes to watch the British medical drama series Casualty, she tells Sheree Bega

Subscribers only

Covid-19 surges in the Eastern Cape

With people queuing for services, no water, lax enforcement of mask rules and plenty of partying, the virus is flourishing once again, and a quarter of the growth is in the Eastern Cape

Ace prepares ANC branches for battle

ANC secretary general Ace Magashule is ignoring party policy on corruption-charged officials and taking his battle to branch level, where his ‘slate capture’ strategy is expected to leave Ramaphosa on the ropes

More top stories

See people as individual humans, not as a race

We need to ingrain values of equality in education, businesses, society broadly and religious groups to see people

JJ Rawlings left an indelible mark on Ghana’s history

The air force pilot and former president used extreme measures, including a coup, enforced ‘discipline’ through executions, ‘disappearances’ and floggings, but reintroduced democracy

Sudan’s government gambles over fuel-subsidy cuts — and people pay...

Economists question the manner in which the transitional government partially cut fuel subsidies

Traditional healers need new spaces

Proper facilities supported by well-researched cultural principles will go a long way to improving the image and perception of the practice of traditional medicine

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…