Eskom staff threatened as illegal connections trip power in Joburg

When technicians responded to the power failure, they had a run-in with community members at Orange Farm.
When technicians responded to the power failure, they had a run-in with community members at Orange Farm.
Image: Eskom

Eskom technicians had to suspend efforts to restore a power outage in Orange Farm, south of Johannesburg, after being threatened by “illegal operators” in the community stealing electricity.

More than 700 customers were left in the dark after a transformer was overloaded by community members who indiscriminately bypassed their meters, illegally connected  themselves to the network and vandalised electricity infrastructure, said senior maintenance manager Motlhabane Ramashi.

When technicians responded to a power failure last Thursday, after illegal connections overloaded a transformer, they were obstructed when sections of the community retaliated.

Ramashi said they had to suspend the operation to protect staff.

“It is regrettable that our efforts to provide reliable electricity service are often disrupted and undermined by individuals who do not pay for their services. We have an obligation to provide services, yet keep our staff safe, run our operations efficiently, collect revenue for services provided and safeguard our infrastructure.”

Eskom and the City of Johannesburg met with the community members on Wednesday and agreed to resume the operation to repair and replace the damaged infrastructure.

However, Ramashi said they would do so when it was deemed safe for staff.

He said earlier that there had been a “significant rise in power supply interruptions” in Soweto due to an “exponential overload of the network caused by illegal connections, bypassed meters and vandalism”.

“We will not be in a position to meet the needs for repeated network failures due to overloading as a result of illegal connections as this is not financially viable and is putting further stain on critical resources including materials during the national lockdown period.”

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