On the coldest day of the year so far, many Joburgers woke up on Friday without power to heat their homes.
Lenasia, Eldorado Park, Klipspruit West, Kliptown, Nancefield and Devland in the south of Joburg had on Friday morning been without power for over 24 hours.
According to City Power, the power interruption was caused by the theft of panels supporting the 88kV electricity pylons between the Nirvana and Nancefield substations.
City Power spokesman Sol Masolo said the theft of the panels caused the pylons to fall over.
“City Power electricians are currently in the areas and have started the project to replace the (supporting panels) and also to repair those (pylons) that can be (fixed),” said Masolo on Friday morning.
When the two pylons fell, the cables landed on the R554 opposite the Trade Route Mall in Lenasia, and had to be cut to allow cars to travel safely. Security guards were sent to safeguard the pylons and cables overnight.
While City Power has promised that most areas should have power by the end of the day, Lenasia residents face an icy weekend.
Masolo said the damage to the infrastructure serving Lenasia was more extensive and thus would take longer to fix.
Lenasia businessman Naeem Thokan spent most of the morning trying to get an old generator running by connecting it to a car battery. The owner of Lotus Bakery was worried about the losses his business was making.
“We can’t operate, we can’t trade and we’re losing money on the stock,” said the 37-year-old.
“I’m trying to get a generator but it’s too expensive. It’ll cost me R300 000 because these ovens need big generators.”
Thokan, a father of four, said he had to send his children to school without breakfast.
“We didn’t even have light for them to do their homework or study and they’re writing their exams,” he said.
At Kliptown Primary School, children who are writing exams on Friday arrived to find no electricity.
“How do learners know when school starts (as the siren is not working)? When periods end, how will they know? We have to round them up each time break ends,” said principal Percy Dickson.
“Computers are not working and communication is cut off because the phones are off,” he said.
“Even if it was summer schooling would be disrupted but it happened to come on the coldest day this year,” said Dickson.
On Thursday Eskom said they did not expect outages this winter because they had strengthened their distribution network and prepared for higher demand.
They have also embarked on a nationwide project to counter illegal connections and to prevent meter tampering.
This week The Citizen newspaper reported that Soweto’s power outages would continue during winter, reportedly due to an overloaded circuit breaker in the area.
“If the residents allow Eskom to install protective structures with split metering, the unplanned power outages will reduce,” the power utility’s media desk said.
Eskom said it had addressed similar problems in Zola, Dobsonville Extension, Messi Park and Meadowlands Zone 11, among others, in Soweto, by installing split meters, but this process needed buy-in from the communities.
Following a spate of cable-theft incidents and protests, Eldorado Park residents thought the worst was over as their power supply had been stable for weeks.
“First we thought it was loadshedding, (but) this can’t be loadshedding, loadshedding is in four-hour schedules,” said a disgruntled resident who refused to give his name.
To fight the freezing cold, some residents in Klipspruit West could be seen standing around fires started in their backyards.
Glassen Samuels had to keep her eight-year-old son home from school.
“It’s been very cold especially for us because we live in a backroom.
“My son has asthma and came out of hospital last Wednesday. He started coughing again on Thursday,” she said.
Samuels works at the Klipspruit West Development Centre which teaches computers, welding and boiler-making. “We had to send the young people home because we had no lights. They’re just wandering around the streets,” said Samuels.
City Power engineers on site are busy with repairs and hope to get the electricity back by 6pm.
However, the repairs will be temporary.