South Africa: Power Outage Sparks Days of Protest in Joburg

The N1 highway connected Johannesburg and Pretoria (file photo).

Protests started on Tuesday, culminating with major roads to Orlando East, Pennyville, and Noordgesig being blocked on Thursday

On Tuesday residents in Noordgesig started to protest about a prolonged power outage that had started on the Sunday. On Wednesday the protest spread to other areas. By Thursday about 100 residents had blocked major roads with rocks, tree trunks and burning tyres, affecting access to Orlando East, Pennyville and Noordgesig.

Johannesburg Metro Police spokesperson Xolani Fihla said passing vehicles had been stoned.

The protest came after 7,000 households were left without power due to illegal connections overloading the network.

In a statement, City Power said: "The power outage is a result of overhead lines that snapped due to overloading on the network."

Protesting Noordgesig residents, such as Dillin Abrahams, said people are fed up with the unreliable supply from City Power.

The protest stopped many people from going to work, and Noordgesig Primary and Secondary schools were closed on Thursday. Gauteng Department of Education spokesperson Steve Mabona said: "Teaching and learning will commence with a recovery plan on Monday, 22 April."

"Nothing justifies the disruption of schooling, more so during a time when every day counts as we have already lost a number of critical school days," said Mabona.

City Power spokesperson Tumi Mashishi said: "Due to a number of backyard dwellings, illegal connections in the area [Pennyville mostly] are rife. These overload the network and result in outages."

Mashishi said the road blockages had delayed repair trucks and threatened the safety of employees.

By Thursday evening, City Power said it had restored power to 98% of customers but a mini-substation on the low voltage side remained faulty, for which contractors were sourcing materials for repairs.

Noordgesig community leader Grace Bates had her hands full looking after ailing residents who had a critical need for electricity, such as 31-year-old Nikita Roberts. Roberts uses an oxygen tank for 16 hours a day. She has a small tank she can use without electricity, and a larger one that needs power.

Roberts said when the outage started on Sunday she couldn't breath as the only tank she had with oxygen was the one requiring electricity.

Bates had to call an ambulance for Roberts, who has since returned home.

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