Burning rage over power cuts
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Johannesburg - Angry residents stormed an Eskom building in Soweto overnight, smashing the gate before torching at least a dozen vehicles parked in the yard.
The front roller gate of the Klipspruit Eskom technical service centre was bent in and rested on the floor.
In the parking lot, at least 12 torched vehicles could be seen although it was unclear whether these belonged to employees personally or were company cars.
Other cars which weren’t razed had their windows smashed in, including a cherry picker truck.
The windows of the security booth at the entrance were also smashed.
The perimeter fence was bent towards the road and its supporting poles nearly snapped off.
Security denied the media access to the property while the police combed the scene.
The protest started late on Wednesday night and protesters attacked some cars including that of The Star’s night editor Mapaseka Mogotsi.
Mogotsi was on her way home to Rockville. She was travelling past the Nancefield Hostel just before midnight when she saw rocks blocking the road and shattered glass. She expected two Nyalas to alert her to any trouble, but since they didn’t, she drove on.
“I kept driving but the road was dark as there is no electricity in the area and it was curving.
“As I continued, I saw that it was barricaded. I tried to reverse but could not as I could not see what was going on behind me for the dark. I had to continue on that road and that’s when people started pelting my car with rocks, screaming and shouting. I am talking about men with rocks that they hurled at my car,” she said.
“As I tried to negotiate myself out of that situation, my front wheel got a puncture and I lost control of the steering wheel. With one hand, I tried to control the car and with the other, I was on my phone trying to call for help.
“Fortunately, I managed to flee and met the police along the way.”
Mogotsi was not hurt because her windows did not shatter.
On Thursday morning, the situation appeared to have calmed down with the police monitoring the area.
A group of Klipspruit women came to see what had happened, but were afraid to be identified.
They said the men from the hostel had become frustrated with what the women said is nightly load shedding in the whole of the Klipspruit and Nancefield area.
“But they don’t pay electricity,” said one woman.
She said for the past two months, power was cut in the Klipspruit area and Nancefield hostel from 7pm and restored between 7am and 2pm the following day.
Another resident said they heard the men approaching the Eskom Centre at about 11pm.
“They were knocking on windows (en route), saying ‘come and join us’.”
She said she also heard gunfire.
Joburg metro police spokesman Wayne Minnaar said that metro officers had to close the roads in the area early Thursday morning, including Klipspruit Valley Road and Sofasonke Street and redirect traffic while they cleared rocks and other debris.
Traffic was severely affected, particularly on Chris Hani Road, which saw vehicles backed up for kilometres. Motorists were redirected to Chris Hani, Elias Motsoaledi and Reverend Modise roads.
The Klipspruit Valley Road, which has Rea Vaya BRT lanes that go behind Nancefield hostel is busy in the mornings because it is also used by other buses as well as taxis.
By 7.20am, normal traffic flow resumed, said Minnaar.
Eskom could not respond to queries at the time of going to press.
A press conference was scheduled for Thursday morning.