The news of the old three-pronged plug being a danger in South Africa has been making its rounds. But what exactly does this mean? In a nutshell, all new buildings in South Africa need to have the new SANS 164-2 plug.

New sockets have become compulsory in South Africa, effective as of January 2018. This means that all new installations should incorporate at least one socket outlet that complies with SANS 164-2. Socket outlets may also include outlets complying with the dimensions of SANS 164-1 (the previous, and recent, South African plug standard).

If you find this a little bit confusing, don’t worry. This is where a sparky qualified electrician can come in handy.

SANS 164

SANS stands for South African National Standard. The new mandatory plug is required for any new buildings that are erected after January 2018. The wiring code’s new amendment states that the ZA plug (SANS 164-2) is to become semi-mandatory for new installations, and that each new plug point must have at least one socket that can accommodate a ZA plug.

How can I tell the difference?

The new plug has the same basic shape as the Europlug. The shape is identified as being hexagonal in profile and is substantially more compact than South Africa’s standard three-prong plug, with much thinner pins.

The below image demonstrates the difference between the Europlug and the new standard ZA plug.

Image credit: My Broadband


The ZA plug configuration is considered safer. This is because when a plug is inserted it goes into a 12 mm well. In this way, when the pins touch the live terminals they cannot be seen and interfered with. As a result, the new plug standard is said to reduce the chance of fire and electrocutions. 

So far, the industry has been slow to respond as electrical suppliers and manufacturers do not always have stock etc. However, there are reputable electrical suppliers who are up to date with the new system.

The older system is still legal

Although it is now required for all new buildings to include the new ZA plug, the older standard is still legal as the wiring code amendment does not affect any existing buildings. So, do you need to switch your plugs at home? No, you do not. Do you need to integrate the new standard in a new building? Most definitely.