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Rare snowfall stuns South Africans during cold snap

Gabriel Sussman gestures as snow falls in Zoo Lake park in Johannesburg on 10 July 2023.
Snow falling in Zoo Lake park, Johannesburg, 10 July 2023. Photo: AFP

People have woken up to snow and sleet in South Africa's biggest city, Johannesburg, for the first time in over a decade.

South Africans are being warned to keep warm as a cold front sweeps across most of the country.

"No major disruptions have been caused by the snowfall at this stage," a spokesman for the South African Weather Service (Saws) has told the BBC.

Cold weather conditions are expected to continue through the week.

Many people in Johannesburg on Monday seem enchanted by the rare sight of snow in their city.

"Some of the pupils and I went out to explore... some of them had seen snow before whereas others thought it was raining," says primary school teacher Agnes Mideva.

Domestic worker Nobukhosi Stompie told the BBC she travelled through the snow on her way to work, and had never seen anything like it.

"We're keeping warm indoors so we're fine," says caretaker Billy Nxumalo. "Snow was everywhere, covering the fields near our neighbourhood - it was really beautiful to see."

A woman throws snow in the air at a plaza in front of a Johannesburg office building, 10 July 2023.
A woman throws snow in the air at a plaza in front of a Johannesburg office building. Photo: AFP

As winter begins in the southern hemisphere nation, meteorologists are keeping a close eye on developments.

Snow has been reported in a number of provinces including the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and the Gauteng region which includes Johannesburg and Soweto.

Weather experts have advised initiation schools in the Eastern Cape to be extra vigilant over the next week as they keep watch over hundreds of teenage boys undergoing traditional circumcision rites on isolated mountainsides across the province, a practice seen as a rite of passage into manhood amongst the Xhosa ethnic group.

Farmers are also being advised to provide shelter for their livestock during the cold spell.

It is not clear what role climate change has played in the rare snowfall.

- This story was first published by the BBC