Time In South Africa: Everything You Wanted to Know


It’s funny how time flies, especially in South Africa. The constant upbeat hustle and bustle of the country seems to propel the country at a faster pace than the rest of the world. Its urban cities seem to move at a similar pace with cities like New York, Boston, Lagos or Shanghai. The Time in South Africa is commonly referred to as South African Standard Time (SAST). SAST refers to the time zone used by the countries in Southern Africa including South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. The South African Time is UTC+2, this means it is two hours ahead of UTC (Coordinated Universal Time). It is also the same as the Central Africa Time. Interestingly, neither time zones observe Daylight Savings.

Maybe a better understanding of UTC is in Order. The Coordinated Universal Time is the foremost time standard which regulates the time, clock and watches all over the world. It also does not observe daylight saving time. In 1960, the UTC was officially formalized by the International Radio Consultative Committee. The UTC replaced the GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) as the primary time standard. However, several proposals have been made to replace the UTC but a consensus has not been reached in that regard. The national standard for South African time is maintained by Pretoria’s NMISA – National Metrology Institute of South Africa.

Time In South Africa

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South Africa is currently one of the countries in the world that have the same time nationwide. While it may not seem quite remarkable, it truly is. Some countries have different time zones which lead to several cities within them being hours ahead or hours behind each other. France, for example, is a country with 12 different time zones. The United States has 11. Russia has 11 while the United Kingdom has 9 time zones. Australia has 8 time zones, Canada has 6 and Denmark has 5. In the early days, there was no uniformed time in South Africa and different towns used their various local times. All that changed on the 8th of February 1892 thanks to the Railway Conference that was held in Bloemfontein.

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Multiple subjects were discussed during the conference but the most relevant was the difficulty in establishing a functional railway system in the absence of a uniformed time across the towns. As a result, the then government adopted a standard uniform time of GMT+1:30 – which was 1 hour and 30 minutes ahead of the Greenwich Mean Time. In 1903, GMT+02:00 replaced the old standard time. However, South African Time now adopts UTC+02:00 for its standard time.

South African Time 2

The important thing to remember about Time in South Africa is that time in itself is very complex. South African time differs from the time in other African countries and other Sub-Saharan African countries because of its position on the African continent. Furthermore, the local time in South Africa also differs from the time in other countries on other continents because of the location of Africa in the world. However, despite not sharing location and continents with some countries, time is uniform between them. Although this is repeatedly affected by Daylight savings.

Daylight Savings Time

South African Time

Since I began this article, I’ve mentioned ‘daylight savings’ a couple of time. So maybe a brief explanation is necessary. Daylight Savings Time is commonly called summer time. This is the practice of adjusting clocks during summer by an hour so that evening daylight ‘lasts’ for an hour longer. Usually, countries with summer advance their clocks an hour ahead close to the beginning of spring. In autumn, the clocks are then adjusted back to standard time. People usually refer to the practice of adjusting the clocks backward as ‘fall back.’

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Understanding Time

time in south africa

Time on its own is an interesting concept. If I were to start talking about time, I’d probably run out of…well, time. But I have to at least try. Time, as a concept, is defined as the continued advancement of existence and occurrences that take place in a supposedly irreversible sequence from the past to the present to the future. What you may be familiar with as time is actually the varied units of measuring time – minutes, jiffy and seconds. The desire to understand time has long been a staple in fields like philosophy, science and religion. For eons, the smartest minds on earth have struggled to understand the full weight behind the concept ‘time’. It shouldn’t be completely surprising that it may continue to elude them for a little while longer.

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