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Johanensburg - Several days after disgruntled City Power technicians caused malicious electricity cut-offs to suburbs around the city in an unprotected strike, action has yet to be taken.
From Wednesday last week several substations, which are national key points, were switched off and tampered with in acts of sabotage, endangering lives, causing traffic mayhem and losing the city an average of R100 million a day before all the affected areas were restored by Saturday.
Although not a single arrest had been made, the power giant said it was working with the Hawks and promised that the culprits would face “the full might of the law” - although it was not known how long this would take.
One of the rogue technicians has since resigned and more resignations are expected, but City Power has promised that this will not stop any prosecutions.
City Power on Monday revealed that workers had consistently been claiming 24-hour shift payments and had been “abusing and manipulating” the system with false overtime claims in an inefficient operating system that had been running for several years.
This led to money allocated for the filling of vacancies being spent on overtime. By doing the job of three people, technicians were essentially depriving others of the opportunity of employment.
Furthermore, questions are being asked as to why no one noticed these irregularities which also blatantly contravene health and safety regulations, and why they were allowed to continue for over two years with no action taken.
The chairman of the City Power board, Reverend Frank Chikane, defended the utility, saying it started a review process in 2012 during which these issues were picked up.
“It took a year of negotiations with unions to implement all the new policies we are instituting. We have to follow labour regulations,” he said.
Chikane said the utility was co-operating fully with the Hawks and that statements had been taken from staff members. “We are adding charges of attempted murder because something was placed onto the circuit breaker in the Alexandra substation which could have endangered thousands of lives,” he said.
When asked how soon arrests could be expected, Chikane could not answer, saying only “the law must take its course”.
With regard to action being taken against technicians who had been making excessive or fraudulent overtime claims over years, Chikane said this was also “being investigated”.
Yet another issue is whether residents and businesses will be compensated for their losses.
City Power announced last week that while claims could be submitted and would be considered, the utility could not accept a blanket liability as people would take advantage of that.
However, last month, in response to questions from The Star, City Power said that claims would not be settled “in favour of the claimant where it is found that City Power or its employees were not at fault or did not cause the power surge due to negligence or dereliction of duty”.
Security will now be tightened at all substations, and the SAPS and SANDF will maintain security at the four “intake points” where electricity from Eskom is fed into the city’s grid.
Another measure will see the process of staff recruitment tightened up to eliminate “bad elements” - such as those who sabotaged Joburg’s power system last week.
The steps were revealed by City of Joburg member of the mayoral committee Matshidiso Mfikoe when she announced that the wildcat strike was over, that power had been restored to all parts of the city and that all workers were back at work.
Mfikoe also announced that one person allegedly involved in last week’s shutdown had resigned and more resignations were expected.
However, Mfikoe said this would not stop the entity from pursuing those responsible for the deliberate power cuts.
“Even though they have resigned, they will still be held accountable for their actions, which endangered the lives of people,” she said, adding that because City Power was a national key point in terms of the 1980 Key Points Act, last week’s sabotage was all the more serious.
Mfikoe said City Power was able to institute its emergency preparation plan, which saw
10 command centres being set up at the depots and City Power executive committee board members manning and visiting the stations three times a day.
This would continue until the situation had been stabilised. - The Star