Johannesburg – Employees of the City of Johannesburg's power utility City Power were allegedly held hostage by community members in Alexandra in a standoff related to power outages in the area on Saturday, the utility said.
“Our team that was working on restorations of areas affected by Vasco da Gama [substation] were held hostage on Saturday by the community of 6th Avenue [and] Joe Nhlanhla Street. This will lead to more delays in restoring power to Vasco da Gama which affected almost half of Alexandra from 1st to 20th avenue between Vasco and Richard Baloyi streets,” City Power spokesperson Isaac Mangena said.
“It’s not clear why the team was held hostage, but it is believed [to be] the frustration of not having power for the past five days. Part of the community of 6th Avenue are also angry because they haven't had electricity for almost two weeks since their mini-substation blew up and burnt.”
Mangena said efforts to attend to the burnt substation had been delayed by a lack of replacement parts. The damage made it impossible to even connect a generator.
“JMPD [Johannesburg Metro Police Department] was called to release the [City Power] team held hostage and no one was injured. City Power is currently engaging both the communities and we are hoping the teams will be able to return to do the restoration and other repairs across the township. In the meantime we have withdrawn our teams out of Alexandra until their safety could be guaranteed. Councillors and the regional director were notified,” Mangena said.
City Power was concerned about “this foreign phenomenon” of holding technicians and personnel hostage. This would inevitably lead to further delays in attending to repairs and prolong restoration times.
“While we do our best to attend to outage backlogs, we appeal for patience and cooperation from the customers. We appeal for customers to calm down and bear with us as our resources are a bit overstretched due to the amount of outages we have to deal with during the winter period. We are hoping to restore [power to] the community fed from Vasco da Gama [substation] by this afternoon [Saturday],” Mangena said.