GHASTLY GRID

Joburg newlyweds electrocuted at home – family had made numerous complaints to City Power

By Ferial Haffajee 14 June 2021

The funeral service of a couple believed to be electrocuted at their home in Crosby near Mayfair in Johannesburg. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Other Johannesburg residents have reported shower shocks as the city grid nears collapse. City Power has instituted an urgent investigation.

Ferial Haffajee

Just 10 days ago, Zaheer Sarang and Nabeela Khan got married and agreed to spend their lives together – instead, they were buried in a joint funeral on Monday after being electrocuted in their Crosby, Johannesburg, home at the weekend.

Zaheer’s parents, Yusuf and Anisa Sarang, live in the main house and had built a cottage for the young couple. The couple got home from their honeymoon on Saturday night, and Zaheer’s parents thought the couple was lying in on Sunday morning.

However, that afternoon Yusuf Sarang became worried as the curtains in the cottage remained closed, and there was no sign of life. He forced open the door to discover the bodies of his son and daughter-in-law.

The family believes that Nabeela Khan-Sarang was electrocuted in the shower, and that Zaheer tried to help her and was also electrocuted. 

City Power CEO Mongezi Ntsokolo has launched an urgent investigation while the SA Police Service has opened an inquest.

Last week, the family got slight shocks when they used the taps and reported the problem to City Power several times. Other community members have made similar reports of electric currents running through their water.

Zaheer Sarang and Nabeela Khan Photo: Supplied

Crosby – west of Johannesburg – Soweto and Alexandra are the areas worst affected by the city’s electricity and water crisis. Crosby was also recently without water for days – it is in the same municipal ward as the Helen Joseph and Rahima Moosa hospitals, where operations had to be cancelled and many services halted because of water cuts. Gift of the Givers has installed a borehole at Rahima Moosa and will start digging one at Helen Joseph.

The family’s spokesperson, Ricky Nair, a community activist, says City Power must investigate illegal connections across the area. He says a woman and child were electrocuted at the Slovo informal settlement in the ward last year after residents hung wet blankets over electrical wiring.

As news spread of the death of the couple, numerous other residents came forward to show their reports to City Power, which they place on community WhatsApp groups. 

One of these read: “Two weeks back City Power technicians worked on the pole and there was a power surge in our house which blew appliances; since then we are getting shocked in [the] bathroom and [by the] kitchen taps. I thought this might be related to our [electricity] board, but we have had a private electrician come check, and he said the problem is definitely from the pole.”

The funeral service of a couple believed to be electrocuted in their home. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Resident Ridwaan Coovadia told Daily Maverick, “I went into the shower and got a shock. It sent waves down my right side. The electricity goes on and off all the time, and I am tired of reporting and reporting.”  

In Observatory, in the east of the city, Tom Waspe said, “I got into the shower [about 10 days ago], and I was wet and barefoot. I tried to adjust the taps, and I got a massive kick [shock]. It was scary.” 

Now he showers with the electricity mains switched off.  This started happening about two weeks ago when the grid began to fail.

Across the city, residents are reporting power cuts that last for days and reinstatements where the current veers between low and high voltage. 

In the last week there were electricity protests in Soweto and Alexandra, and residents would not let technicians leave City Power depots.

“Johannesburg residents are facing a real power crisis which needs urgent short-term solutions to stabilise the grid, and long-term plans to guarantee supply,” said DA councillor Nicole van Dyk, who oversees electricity and water for the party.

Mourners carry the coffin at the funeral service. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

At the weekend there were 4,807 open calls about electricity cuts, with 62 City Power teams across the city to deal with these. 

“All depots have told us there is no money at present for new equipment, and parts are limited – most teams only have copper wire and insulation tape to do repairs,” said Van Dyk.

“In one case, a team went to collect a new mini sub [station] for Wilgeheuwel, which had been without power for five days, but were told by the supplier that the city had not paid for it.”

City Power spokesperson Isaac Mangena said, “City Power has started to build and strengthen internal capacity. We have promoted over 30 trade artisans into electricians to increase capacity at depots effective from June 1st.”

Mayoral committee member Mpho Moerane said, “The increase in capacity of contractors, and the internal technicians will assist in reducing backlogs and ensure a quick turnaround to outage calls.” DM

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All Comments 11

  • This is devastating and disturbing news about this young couple and others similarly affected. Deepest condolences to the parents and all the family. It is appalling when people have to pay for their lives because of a lack of will and the correct skills to provide services, which are after all guaranteed by our Constitution, safely and efficiently.

  • “ We have promoted over 30 trade artisans into electricians” what the hell does that mean? As I understand, you qualify to be an electrician. It’s not something you get promotion for, especially not because you’re short of expertise!

  • Sad news.
    We had the same problem with live taps. Fortunately in our case only 60v tickles. The fault lay in a poor connection at the Eskom supply point . The shocks strangely did not trip the earth leakage unit. In my ignorance I thought it would trip. Why dont they work in these cases?

  • What a tragedy and an unnecessary loss of two young lives. City Power must be charged with murder or at the very least manslaughter!

  • Begs the question, what were the 30+ trade artisans doing before being “promoted” to electricians? And you either qualify as an electrician or you don’t…
    This is a tragic and totally unnecessary loss of life!

  • How pathetic!!! Has everything that has been touched by the ruling party gone pear shaped. south Africans used to scoff at other third world countries where services had collapsed after colonialism but South Africa is worse. Nothing seems to work. Corruption and incompetence have caused the death of this young couple. Heads must start rolling. Voters take note of who you vote for in the Municipal elections.

  • Sadly in many cases of electrocution you will find that the electrical supply is not earthed – this happens in illegal builds where planning have been bypassed and the electrics have not been certified or where other illegal electrical connection are made. I do not think that load shedding or City Power is to blame but I could be wrong.

    • Thank you for your sensible comment, I agree. There are some cases where the supplier (City Power) is indeed to blame (e.g. a broken neutral), but these are by far in the minority.

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