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When SA suffered unprecedented power cuts this week as flooding slashed thousands of megawatts off an overstretched grid, dry cleaner and shoe repairer Eva Ntleve had to stop work.

“It’s affecting us very badly,” she said at her store in the township of Alexandra, one of Johanneburg’s poorest, where small shops selling second-hand clothes and cell phone credit line the streets. “When the power goes off we can’t work, him especially,” Ntleve said, gesturing towards a man sitting next to an idle shoe-repair machine...

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