Amanda Watson news editor The Citizen obituary

By Amanda Watson

News Editor


Electricity outages in Joburg: City Power says it’s ‘hit the ground running’ but residents disagree

Of 3 000 calls logged daily, 70% are not resolved within 48 hours.


Extended power outages caused by faults, theft and sabotage in the City Power grid are turning into days from hours, thanks to a change-over in contractors working for the local utility – and Joburgers are furious about the delays.

Windsor Glen, Windsor, Randpark and much of block 16 has been without power since Monday. They are joined by Ennerdale, block 8, block 9, block 14, Maroeladal and many other suburbs.

City Power’s new contractors

The utility’s spokesperson, Isaac Mangena, said it had “on-boarded new contractors since 1 June and our residents should know there is no crisis, as suggested in the messages circulating, and that outages are not being attended to”.

“The new team of contractors started on 1 June and have already hit the ground running across all our service delivery centres (SDC),” Mangena said.

ALSO READ: Has City Power been imposing much more load shedding than required?

However, the problems are not going away. Lenasia had 490 calls logged* on Friday morning, of which 357 were outstanding for over 24 hours.

Midrand residents affected by the Allandale substation (Rabie Ridge extension 5 and Mayibuye) had to wait for materials needed for repairs to multiple faults on an overhead line. Rabie Ridge was restored, but Mayibuye had to wait longer for the load to drop as “it is very high”.

The inner city had 226 calls* outstanding on Friday morning.

Load shedding

Exacerbating the problem is load shedding, because technicians cannot work on a fault during an outage as “teams are not able to locate the faults, conduct tests and do repairs during this time”, said City Power.

Despite Mangena’s assertion teams had “hit the ground running”, of the 10 SDCs, only “seven or eight teams” are available to service them, according to Ward 99 councillor Nicole van Dyk.

ALSO READ: City Power meets with Ramokgopa to outline load shedding challenges

The City of Joburg website states Section 79 committees, also known as portfolio committees, “monitor the delivery and outputs of the executive. Each one monitors a council portfolio and may call departments, municipal entities and members of the mayoral committee to account.”

Except, said Van Dyk, her particular committee which covers water, power and Pikitup, hasn’t sat since last September, despite being required to sit once a month.

“City Power for the last many months has been averaging around 3 000 logged calls* a day,” Van Dyk said.

“Around 70% of those will go into the 48-hours-and-over mark. City Power has around 80 of its own electricians that work alongside contractors and is still not able to keep up with the high number of outages. Therefore, contractors are still needed.”

Van Dyk said the committee agreed contractors were very costly, however, simply stopping them had caused chaos.

ALSO READ: City Power contractor bust for electricity infrastructure sabotage

“I expect outages will take significantly longer to fix. As ward councillors, we only found out the former contractors would be let go [three] days ago,” she said.

“What they haven’t explained to us yet – and we’ve been asking for a meeting for two months – is how those seven or eight contractors will attend to the 10 depots across the city?”

City Power ‘not talking’

As the point of communication between residents and the city, Van Dyk said it was “bizarre” City Power was not talking to them.

“City Power is possibly the only company in the entire world which uses a middleman it doesn’t pay to interact directly with its clients, which is us,” Van Dyk said.

Mangena said some of the previous contractors were not properly accredited, which begs the question, why were they appointed in the first place? This was not answered in his statement.

ALSO READ: City Power to reduce load shedding hours for Joburg

A possible side-effect of the old contractors being dismissed has seen “some of the old contractors implicated and arrested for theft and vandalism of our infrastructure”, Mangena said.

He said City Power had recruited “about 120 new technicians since February” and a parallel productivity team would ensure it restored electricity “within 24 hours, with minimal interruptions to our customers”.

There are many people, especially in Lenasia and Windsor, who would disagree with him.

Feedback

Ward 98 councillor Beverly Jacobs said Windsor Glen experienced outages “like you cannot believe”.

“They [City Power] have transferred and shifted loads and put in new underground cables, but the thing is with the maintenance which was done on Monday, something is linked because [Windsor] and Robin Glen have a history of going out,” she said.

“We’ve been asking for help and feedback, but it hasn’t been coming as fast as we need it to.”

Jacobs said the issues in Windsor Glen should have been resolved at least three years ago.

*The number of logged calls does not necessarily represent the number of actual faults.

– amandaw@citizen.co.za

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