Johannesburg - Baby Stevie needs electricity to live. After he was born, he stayed in ICU for three months because of breathing difficulties. The 13-month-old from Newlands was diagnosed with chronic asthma and epilepsy and every two weeks he visits a nearby hospital.

At home, Stevie uses a breathing monitor while he sleeps which is checked every hour by his parents.


But now the baby’s life is in danger. The area where he lives has been severely affected by electrical faults and power outages. The blackouts have hit as often as every two days lately, and now grandmother Chantel Nel fears the worst.

“These power outages are so dangerous because we need electricity for most of his medication and equipment.

“If there is no power and he stops breathing for a few minutes when his parents are sleeping, the breathing monitor wouldn’t notify them and he could die.”

The family is praying that City Power sorts out the constant electricity issues before it is too late for Stevie.

The family moved to Newlands a year before he was born. There were no issues with electricity then.

“The past month has been hell. Just this week I can’t tell you how many times the power went off. We called the toll-free number for about three hours and no one answered the phone. Last Friday it went off at 1am and a contractor from the council only came and replaced a fuse on a circuit breaker the next day at 10pm. Then on Tuesday it went off again. Sometimes it would go off for 30 minutes every few hours,” she said.

Amanda Forsythe, Newlands ward councillor, sympathised with the Nel family this week and said City Power “needs to get their act together”.

“The child could die if electricity is out for too long.”

Forsythe said she has been trying to help Newlands residents to report these faults for several weeks because they were threatening to barricade a road or burn a substation.

According to Forsythe, the main problem is that the infrastructure is extremely old. She appealed to City Power to get to the bottom of the problem. “Circuit breakers need to be replaced instead of simply sending contractors out time after time to replace a fuse,” she said. “This is a typical example of how taxpayers’ money is wasted on contractors.”

Instead of replacing ageing infrastructure and properly investigating recurring faults, Forsythe claims the contractors know that it’s not in their financial interests to resolve a fault once and for all.

“They just replace a fuse so they can come back again for another job,” she said. “There are no regular maintenance plans because City Power is understaffed, so they just crisis-manage.”

City Power failed to respond to queries this week. - Saturday Star