In the 1930s, South Africa, as a former British colony, adopted the plug system that was standard in the UK at the time. It was originally defined in BS 317 (published in 1928) and BS 546 (published in 1934). There were four plug and socket versions: 2 A, 5 A (=type D), 15 A (=type M) and 30 A. South Africa initially standardized on both the 5 amp plug (type D) and the 15 amp plug (type M), but in the end only type M sockets remained. In older buildings, however, type D sockets can still be found.
Due to the large volume of imported appliances equipped with incompatible types of plugs, virtually everybody has started using plug adapters in order to fit type M sockets. Especially the need for a safer electric environment and the massive presence of European plugs (type C and type F) contributed to the South African government’s decision to introduce a new type of plug and socket system, which will gradually replace the old type M. The process, however, has been painfully slow.
Talk of adopting the new standard began in 1993 and type N officially became “one of the South African plug standards” in 2006. In 2013, South Africa decided to make type N the “preferred plug and socket standard”, but still, not much happened. Things started moving a bit faster in 2018 when new building regulations were issued. Since then, at least one type N socket has been required at every wall outlet in new homes. This means the older type M socket is still allowed, as long as there is also an adjacent type N socket.
Click here for a global map showing the spread of the different plug types used around the world.
Click here for a detailed list of the countries of the world with their respective plug and outlet types, voltage and frequency.