Some Ekurhuleni residents tell tales of being without power for weeks

Frustrated residents accuse the municipality of not caring

06 November 2023 - 20:42
subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now
Residents in some of the areas in East Rand spend weeks without electricity as the municipality allegedly stalls to repair the faults.
Residents in some of the areas in East Rand spend weeks without electricity as the municipality allegedly stalls to repair the faults.
Image: 123RF/teksomolika

When the electricity went out in her house last Sunday due to a cable fault, Primrose resident Jenny Smal anticipated that it would probably take the municipality about two weeks to repair the fault.

By Monday, it seemed like Smal’s anticipation had become a reality. 

A pensioner in the Germiston area, she relies on her generator because of the constant power outages, but the cost of running the generator is proving to be exorbitant.

She said the cable on a pole outside her yard kept blowing up and whenever technicians from the City of Ekurhuleni repaired it, they allegedly did a shoddy job and left it open.

“This problem started in March this year. I’ve contacted our councillor, we always logged the call, and they don’t fix it properly, it blows,” she said.

She said residents in the area had to bear the brunt, while the municipality did not care about its people.

“When you report, they say, ‘we will forward it to the energy department.’ When you phone the councillor — she tells you, ‘you are on the list.’ I am on the list now for eight days, there is still nothing,” she said.

Smal moved to Primrose about two years ago from Johannesburg South and regrets her decision. She complained that as a pensioner, she was spending a lot of money on a generator.  

Despite repeatedly logging calls to the municipality, technicians only arrived on Sunday, a week later just to take pictures. She said technicians promised to go back and repair the fault, but she was still waiting. 

“My other neighbour’s cable caught alight, they are also going to wait eight to 10 days to get somebody to come and repair.

“Bear in mind last week Tuesday they were two blocks away from my house. They could have taken photos on Tuesday and repaired it a long time ago already,” she said.

She said last week nothing happened and she feared that the same would happen this week. She added that the outages in the area occurred regularly and the municipality should fix the root of the problem.

Residents in Germiston and Primrose suburbs in Ekurhuleni constantly experience power outages due to substations that blow up, overloading and cable theft.

The outages allegedly take the municipality about a week or two weeks to repair as opposed to the promised 48-hour turnaround response after logging a call.

According to residents, these outages usually affect a certain number of households on different streets.

I moved from the south [of Johannesburg] and we didn’t have a problem like I am having here. I am really upset that I bought a property here because they don’t care.
Ekurhuleni resident

Susann Greyling said on her street, some of the residents were without power for more than a week. It was repaired and after two days, the power went off again.

Greyling said the outages were now escalating to Wychwood suburb, with technicians only temporarily fixing the problem and it usually goes out after a day or two and residents spend another week without electricity.

Emilia Duarte-Potgieter said her electricity went out on Sunday, but she knew that it would probably take a week for it to be repaired as that was generally how long it took for technicians to fix the problem. 

Duarte-Potgieter said outages were a regular occurrence and that in June this year, residents spent 20 days without power. It was affecting the whole neighbourhood, with people throwing rotten meat away.

She said she had purchased a generator, but the cost of running it was extremely expensive.

With sleep apnoea, Duarte-Potgieter said at night she unknowingly holds her breath for 46 seconds at a time and about 20 times at night.

“If my body doesn’t wake me up I die. So I need a machine which has a mask, thus blows air so I can breathe, I have had to install a solar panel linked to a battery so when the power is off I can breathe when I sleep, this cost me about R1,000,” she said.

She said at their home, they usually put the generator on from 6pm until 9pm to reduce the cost of running and that during the day they can’t use it.

“That’s the only way of doing it, just to keep the freezer going and we have to boil hot water so that we can shower. A lot of people are not lucky enough to have a generator, so my neighbour has asked me to put his meat in my fridge so that it can at least be cold,” she said.

She added that with the latest outages, they didn’t know what happened, but it seemed like something occurred at the mini substation. She said there was overloading in the area with lots of illegal connections. 

She said there was a time when residents cut some of the illegal connections from a building which is allegedly hijacked. This was after the underground cable burnt.

“Obviously overload contributes to power failures because if you have a household that is supposed to only have five people and there are 20 people living in the property it will cause an overload, that’s the problem,” she said.

For Fana Moyo, who has a three-month-old baby, repeatedly logging calls to the municipality was like fighting a losing battle. His electricity went off last Sunday. 

He said at the time he heard a sound as if something was bursting and then his electricity went off. He logged a call, and technicians only arrived the following Sunday.

“Technicians came during the day. When they got there, they told me that they kept putting me on, but the switch kept tripping and they said that there is nothing they can do because I have a cable fault,” he said.

He said he then logged another call, but there was no communication from the municipality. Moyo has thrown away all the rotten food stored in his fridge, doesn’t feel safe at night, and his cameras and alarm systems are off.

“It hasn’t been easy. I have a three-month-old baby in a house that does not have electricity, so it has affected me a lot. It is something that has been happening regularly,” he said.

We just need service from the municipality and political opinions must stay at that level in parliament.
Susann Greyling

He said the municipality usually indicates that technicians will attend to the problem within 24 to 48 hours.

“You stay around waiting for them, you don’t go to work and they don’t pitch up. The whole of last week I didn't go to work because I was expecting them. The service delivery is very poor,” he added. 

Greyling said the excuse from the municipality was that they have a huge backlog. She said over the weekend she counted about eight houses without electricity on her street.

She added that they have logged the calls, gone to the municipal service centre and called customer care as advised by local councillor Wendy Morgan.

Morgan said some of the residents spent more than 10 days without power. She said in the Germiston area there were a lot of people and businesses that could go for days without power.

“It is affecting businesses and residents negatively. The [municipal] energy department just say ‘we have a backlog’. We have petitioned to co-operative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) and are waiting to be summoned to Cogta to discuss if they can intervene,” she said.   

She added that residents were frustrated, with some losing food and their businesses, and they were worried about their safety.

“Everything is affected. They are very frustrated and I can’t blame them, if you have been off for that long, how would you feel?” Morgan said.

Morgan said she escalated the reported faults every day and sent them to the head of the department, but they kept saying they were working on a problem and that they have a backlog.

City of Ekurhuleni spokesperson Zweli Dlamini said the turnaround time was 24 hours after logging a call and it sometimes took longer depending on the extent of the damage.

“Sometimes you find that they fix a certain part, and after fixing they find out that something else trips or sometimes you find that the cables have been stolen,” he said.

He added that sometimes they may not have particular parts required to repair the electricity. “You may find it is not available at the time. There are many reasons why it can take longer, but we always do it as fast as we can,” he said.   

subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now

Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.