The electricity substation near Unisa, which powers the university and other major institutions in the vicinity, was again massively vandalised, plunging the area into darkness. Picture: Jacques Naude/ANA

Pretoria - The perpetrators of the serial cable theft at the Berea substation - which supplies homes, major companies, South African National Parks (SANParks) and Unisa - were capable of committing a murder.

Ward councillor Sean Wilkinson said on Wednesday the damage caused to the substation during the recent theft on Sunday and Tuesday was massive and unprecedented.

“They were determined to vandalise and leave the substation in ruins.

“But when they struck on Sunday night, leaving the substation almost without any cables, I was left convinced they were also capable of killing,” he told the Pretoria News, adding it was an indication they did not care about the impact of their deeds on citizens.

“The guys who do this go to that power station and make sure it is smashed and destroyed by the time they leave.

“It is going to take a while to fix the substation because it is almost like technicians have to repair the whole thing.

“We will need a partnership between the private and public sector to make contributions to secure the suburb.

“We do not know what is the motivation for the sabotage of the municipal property.”

For most of Wednesday, businesses such as BMW Club Motors, a Caltex service station, as well as Unisa, were relying on generators to power their buildings, while smaller establishments were in the dark for the entire day.

Car dealers said the outage affected their functioning because although they had lights, they needed access to the internet to process applications.

Unisa spokesperson Martin Ramotshela said the power outage affected both the Sunnyside and main campuses.

“We are also using generators to power some of our offices, but the institution is just too large to run on generators only,” he said.

Rey Thakhuli, of SANParks, said the outages were detrimental to their tourism operations, considering that they were expecting business to peak as the Easter holidays approached.

“We have approximately 450 employees and have to power all our computers with generators, which becomes expensive.

“It is counter productive to operations, because we have to buy diesel and that money would be better spent elsewhere. Our generator has a 2 000l capacity and that lasts for about 36 hours. Our tank is now at 60%, so you can see it is an expensive alternative,” Thakuli said.

Traffic along routes whose traffic lights depend on the power station were backed up during the early morning rush, with alerts being sent out for motorists to expect delays coming into and leaving the Muckleneuk vicinity.

Alex van der Walt, who runs the Caltex service station in Sunnyside, said the constant and frequent outages were bad for business because “goodwill” was a bigger price to pay than money.

Alex van der Walt stands in front of his Caltex service station in Sunnyside, which was also affected by the power outages until late on Wednesday. Picture: Jacques Naude/ANA
Alex van der Walt in front of his Caltex service station in Sunnyside, which was also affected by the power outages until late on Wednesday. Picture: Jacques Naude/ANA

“Areas near Unisa and Nelson Mandela Drive are the busiest part of the city during peak hours.

“Imagine the nightmare when traffic lights are not working.

“The councillor (Wilkinson) is going to put a motion to council that I can be elected to hold the key to the substation.

“However, the best solution would be for the City to work with us to secure the place.

“I am sure all business people and residents would not mind paying R50 for security guards to protect that substation,” he said.

MMC for utility services Darryl Moss said the City’s infrastructure was currently under attack, with cable theft and the destruction of property becoming regular occurrences.

Moss said the specific areas attacked and modus operandi showed that these were not random nor isolated, but co-ordinated and deliberate actions, done with the purpose to disrupt service delivery to residents and businesses.

“The culprits have been terrorising the area for far too long, and they have caused one massive power outage after another,” Moss said.

“All residents should be on the lookout for people committing these acts of sabotage, and without putting themselves in danger, report it to the SAPS or Tshwane Metro Police Department.”

Power was eventually restored late afternoon on Wednesday, City spokesperson Lindela Mashigo said.

Pretoria News