City Power technicians work to restore power after a cable was burned at Blairgowrie this week. Picture: Matthews Baloyi
City Power technicians work to restore power after a cable was burned at Blairgowrie this week. Picture: Matthews Baloyi

Excuses for outages leave residents cold

By Anna Cox Time of article published Jul 1, 2014

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Johannesburg - Joburg residents are tearing their hair out over constant power outages over the past weeks, some lasting as long as three days.

And, to add insult to injury, the Joburg Connect call centre option to report faults doesn’t answer calls, with residents claiming they wait for up to 40 minutes trying to get through.

The worst affected areas have been Blairgowrie, Bryanston, Birdhaven and Lenasia, but The Star has also had reports from Rand Park Ridge and Noordwyk about outages.

In the Blairgowrie outage last week, residents said that because of City Power incompetence, some people were almost electrocuted.

The power went off on Thursday morning after thieves stole cables from a sub-station near Republic Road.

Resident Tobie Muller said the matter was reported to City Power after much difficulty.

“They sent someone out, but because only the neutral wires were stolen, there was still power, but at a much higher voltage. The meter they used to test it just showed there was voltage, so they said everything was fine and left. It did not reveal the high voltage.”

“As a result, people were getting shocked when they were bathing or turning on their taps. It was only on Friday night that they returned and fixed the problem. However, one street was still not connected to the system and City Power eventually brought out a generator to give us power.”

Elinor Bodinger owns a business in Blairgowrie.

“We came to a total standstill until they brought a generator. We sat without electricity for almost a full three days.”

Mahendra Chibabhai of Lenasia said on Monday that they had been without power for the fourth time in a week. “It comes on and off, then they restore it in some places and not in others. Phoning the call centre is a waste of time – no one ever answers. We have been without power for almost 12 hours,” he said.

Councillor David Potter said most ward councillors were at their wits’ end.

“We are constantly on the telephones trying to escalate these outages,” he said.

“With the onset of winter, City Power has failed to adequately maintain the network. Power outages have increased, with the non-increase in resources, or a change in mindset of the entity.”

Residents in Randburg and surrounding areas have, in the past few weeks and especially this past weekend, been subjected to power outages lasting up to three days.

People were already frustrated with having to deal with a dysfunctional call centre, and then they get no adequate answers from council officials, Potter said.

Furthermore, residents who tried in desperation to report their outages on the City Power or City of Joburg Twitter accounts, were told: “Log your issue with our call centre or website”.

Potter also accused City Power of failing to adequately secure sub-stations. “On a tour around the city on any one day, sub-stations can be found with broken locks. The locks currently used by City Power were adequate 10 years ago when they were needed to protect sub-stations from the prying fingers of children.

“City Power fails to keep up with the times to ensure sub-station locking mechanisms are secure enough to protect their assets from vandals and cable thief syndicates,” he said.

City Power spokesman Louis Pieterse said cable theft was responsible for most of the outages, especially in Lenasia, where the pylons were stolen two weeks ago. This resulted in the Nirvana sub-station being overloaded and resulted in this week’s outages.

There has also been vandalism in Blairgowrie and Birdhaven.

In Bryanston, power was restored within a few hours.

Pieterse admitted there were problems with the call centre and said City Power would be working with the council to resolve them.

Left hanging on the phone by hotline

The Star tried several times to go through the City Power hotline on Monday. Every call was met with the voice prompt: “We are currently experiencing high call volumes, please hold as you are being transferred to the next available agent.” However, the transfer was never made.

Areas affected included Lenasia, Lombardy East, Northriding, and Naturena. Below is a timeline reflecting the lack of response every time an attempt was made.

9.30am – No transfer to speak to an agent is made

10.50am – Held on to the phone for more than 10 minutes

12.15am – No help is given

2pm – No answer

2.20pm – No answer

3pm – Held on for several minutes with no luck

3:45pm – No transfer made

How to log power outages

* Call: 0860 JOBURG Option 2

* Use mobile phone web browser: (This is the preferred method for customers to log outages). - Additional reporting by Lesego Makagtho

[email protected]

The Star

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