The City of Tshwane says officials from its energy and electricity department were held hostage in Mamelodi East on Tuesday evening by angry community members who forced them to disconnect electricity at another suburb.
The community was apparently up in arms after a local substation in the area tripped due to overloading on the grid after load shedding.
The City of Tshwane’s spokesperson Selby Bokaba said their teams were on site attending to a service interruption when some community members, that are serviced by the Mamelodi Hinterland substation, held the system operators hostage.
The angry residents then forced the officials to switch off electricity at Nellmapius extensions 22 and 24.
“The petrified officials had no choice but had to comply for safety reasons,” Bokaba said in a statement on Wednesday.
Bokaba declined to mention the number of employees who were held hostage when contacted by The Citizen, saying the system operators comprised various officials.
He said officials from the Tshwane Metro Police Department (TMPD) were summoned to assist, but were chased away by some sections of the community.
“A decision was taken to hastily withdraw all the teams from sites in Mamelodi for safety reasons to prevent the community from forcing them to perform further illegal operations.”
Bokaba said the situation in the area remained tense and the traumatised officials were reluctant to go out and attend to service interruptions in extensions 6 and 10, specifically out of fear of being kidnapped or harmed.
He warned that Tuesday’s incident would affect service delivery in parts of Mamelodi East.
A meeting was scheduled for Wednesday between city officials and councillors in the affected areas to resolve the community’s issues.
“The city strongly condemns the criminal behaviour by certain communities in any part of the municipality and the perpetrators of this despicable behaviour should know the consequences of their actions — those officials would simply refuse to go and service those communities in the event of a service interruption.”
The city said it was concerned about the increasing incidents of harassment and robbery of officials while on duty in Nellmapius, some parts of Soshanguve and now in some sections of Mamelodi.
“Service interruptions relating to water and electricity occur from time to time due to a slew of factors, such as theft of cables, vandalism of infrastructure and illegal connection.
“The daily load shedding imposed by power utility Eskom has compounded the problem as the fragile electricity infrastructure is not designed to be switched on and off frequently.”
In March, a City of Tshwane electrician was severely beaten up by angry community members while attending to a power outage in Soshanguve. The official had to be admitted to hospital in ICU.