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Johannesburg - Business people hoping to get City Power to compensate them for the losses they incurred during power outages that lasted up to four days should not hold their breath.
This is because the power utility is not ready to accept liability for fear that doing so would be encouraging fraudsters and chancers to try to fleece them of money.
Many parts of Joburg were plunged into darkness when power went off in what was later found to have been sabotage by City Power employees.
For three days last week, Cresta Mall was without power, except for Woolworths, Dis-Chem, Checkers and Pick n Pay.
Other businesses in the affected areas could not open their doors, causing them to throw away perishable goods that were starting to rot and also losing money from not operating.
By Sunday night, power had been restored to all areas, City Power said, adding that any outages experienced in any other areas were not related to “the illegal work stoppage”.
While many people took to social networks to vent at City Power, spokesman Sol Masolo said they could not say they were liable. All those who felt aggrieved could lay a claim with the power company.
Masolo said that if they said they were liable, people would take advantage of that.
“You can’t approach legal issues like religion; it’s not an environment that operates on belief. A person has to put in a claim and a neutral person would have to decide (on the issue of who is liable).
“In reality, if you stand and say you are liable, everyone will take a chance. Some people will be legitimate while others could be taking a chance,” he added.
At a press conference on Friday afternoon, City Power managing director Sicelo Xulu confirmed that switches at several substations had been tampered with, and that people had just walked in and turned them off. This later prompted the utility to place security guards at all substations.
Although he did not want to give numbers, Masolo said power had been switched off at “quite a few” substations.
He also did not want to say it was their own employees who did this, but they strongly suspected it could be.
Asked about the profile of a person who could be brave enough to get into a substation and switch off the power, Masolo said it was not just an ordinary worker, but someone with an electrical engineering qualification and an understanding of the network.
“There are particular reasons why we suspect our own employees, and some things point to that fact. There are certain regulations in the security industry and one needs a permit to enter a substation, and even I myself would not be able to enter one.
“Only someone with a knowledge of electrical engineering would be able to enter them. What happened shows that it could only have been done by people who understand the network,” he said.
Masolo disagreed with the inference that City Power had all along failed to put the correct security measures in place, hence people could just walk in and switch off the power. He said while there was no security at some substations, there had been security at major substations before, and others were patrolled by guards.
Meanwhile, electricity has been restored to Glenhazel and Fairmount, City Power said on Sunday.
The outages in these suburbs on Saturday evening were not related to the strike.– Additional reporting by Sapa