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Madiba power scare

Published Sep 5, 2013


Johannesburg - Nelson Mandela’s Houghton home was plunged into darkness on Wednesday night as City Power workers went on a strike, refusing to work after hours.

A witness said the power went out at about 8pm in the suburb.

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When The Star arrived at the former president’s home at 8.45pm, a generator could be heard inside the property.

At 9.30pm, subcontractors working for City Power arrived at 11th Avenue and began offloading a large generator from a truck.

It was then wired up to a substation a street from Mandela’s home.

This was the elderly statesman’s third night at home.

At 11.16pm, a back-up generator set up at the Mandela residence was switched off and all the lights on the streets were back on.

However, it wasn’t only Houghton that was experiencing a power outage on Wednesday night – large swathes of Joburg were plunged into darkness because of the labour action at City Power.

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“A couple of hundred workers downed tools late in the afternoon,” said spokesman Louis Pieterse.

“They worked during the day and downed tools at 4pm, saying they won’t work after hours.”

Pieterse said City Power was in the process of introducing shifts to its work roster to improve service delivery.

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This was because workers were sometimes needed to attend to outages after normal working hours.

“Unfortunately, there is a certain level of resistance by some employees, which has resulted in unlawful work stoppages,” Pieterse said.

The workers were striking in their own capacities, and not under the auspices of a union.

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The workers who installed the generator in Houghton worked for Okar Trading and Services, and signage on their vehicles said they were subcontracted to City Power.

Mandela’s home has been reconfigured so that he receives intensive care, according to the Presidency.

Presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj said he was unaware of Wednesday’s outage.

Of the several areas in Joburg without power, the suburb of Sundowner had been in the dark for 30 hours. The power was connected, but went out again on Wednesday night.

Pieterse said the outages were widespread, but there was nothing serious to blame. “We are experiencing some delays in response times and restoration times… Contractors have been appointed to restore the power.”

Later on Wednesday night, Pieterse could not be contacted regarding the effects of the power failure at Mandela’s house.

The outage wasn’t the first incident that could have affected Mandela’s health. On June 8, his military intensive care ambulance broke down while transporting him to hospital in Pretoria. At the time, the Presidency confirmed the elderly statesman had to wait on the side of the road while a second vehicle was dispatched.

Officials said the full complement of medical staff, including intensive care specialists and nurses, who travelled with Madiba had ensured that his health wasn’t compromised by the delay.

Mandela’s latest stay in hospital lasted about three months – his longest time in hospital since his release from jail. He was treated for a recurring lung infection.

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The Star

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