Cable theft behind mass blackouts
Pretoria - The City of Tshwane loses at least R30 million a year because of copper cable theft and the municipality is worried about the impact the losses have on service delivery.
From July last year until June, 1 299 incidents of cable theft have been reported across the municipality, the city says.
This week, 11 Centurion suburbs were plunged into darkness because of copper cable theft and vandalism at the Brakfontein substation, and after the Kentron substation caught fire on Monday – also because of cable theft.
Technicians working on the substations expect power will be restored at Brakfontein substation today at 6am and at Kentron by 8pm.
The city was not aware how many households had been affected by the outages. City spokesman Selby Bokaba said: “The metro police and the energy and electricity departments are looking into strategies on how to crack down on perpetrators.
“The approach will not be revealed as the city is wary of alerting lawbreakers to the plan.
“Access control to substations will be improved, with a consideration of deployment of security personnel in all the regions.”
But for Carina du Toit, the city’s future plans are no comfort as she has no power at home nor at her business in the Centurion Mall.
Du Toit, who lives in Rooihuis-kraal North, has been without electricity at her home since Saturday evening and at work since Monday afternoon – after cable theft led to the collapse of the two electricity substations in Centurion.
“I’m not coping. I have a three-year-old daughter who cannot play in the evenings because there is no electricity and I’m scared a candle will burn down the whole house.
“To bath my child I have to boil water on a small one-plate gas stove. It’s so small we cannot even cook.”
Du Toit, who runs Cottage Flowers at Centurion Mall, and her staff on Tuesday had to use candles to arrange flowers. “How do you run a business like this? The telephone lines and e-mails are down.
“I was even thinking that we should sue the municipality but that will take forever,” Du Toit said.
Wierda Park resident Marlene van Niekerk has been without electricity since Monday afternoon and says it’s been hard for her family to cope. “It is school holidays. The children are home and it is very cold. It is so hard to deal with this.
“The children need to eat and be warm but we cannot do that. One cannot cook and has to buy take-aways every day. By the time you get home the food is cold and you cannot even warm it. We cannot afford to buy a generator. I just hope the issue gets sorted quickly,” she said.
Riyaadh Mohamed who owns Mochachos, a chicken franchise restaurant also in the mall, said he was worried that the food stored in the fridges would go bad. “There is no point keeping the staff here if they’re not going to be doing any work. Even if there is no electricity we still have to pay wages and suppliers. We just hope that the power will be back soon. Our business depends on people who work at corporate companies in the area. If they’re not at work because of the power failures we lose business.”
Mohamed said he might lose about R60 000 owing to the power failures. For Kal Govind, who manages Spec-Savers, the hardest thing was having to turn away clients who had appointments for eye tests or to pick up their glasses. “You cannot do anything without electricity. Even if someone comes here for a collection I cannot help them.”
Tip for residents
Residents are urged to use only generators with an auto start and shut off function and not to connect generators without this function to the electrical network. Consumers are advised to treat all electrical points as “live”. City customers are urged to report power failures by texting the word power, and their account number, to 082 612 0333. Or call 012 358 9999, choosing the electricity option or 080 111 556.