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Joburg mayor pleads for rolling blackout reprieve as one-third of city grid collapses

Joburg mayor pleads for rolling blackout reprieve as one-third of city grid collapses
Johannesburg Executive Mayor Mpho Phalatse. (Photo by Gallo Images/Sharon Seretlo)

Joburg mayor Mpho Phalatse wants a three-day reprieve from Eskom’s scheduled blackouts as residents are plunged into multi-day power cuts. 

South Africa’s largest city is in a power crisis, with one-third of the grid down because of freak storms and ageing infrastructure. Thousands of residents have been without electricity for days since the floods began from Monday, 5 December.

The city contributes 15% to the GDP and has six million residents. 

Phalatse said the city needs the reprieve to “meet the nearing insurmountable challenge of escalating faults and outages post torrential rain in Gauteng”. 

By Monday, 13 December, the metro’s electricity utility City Power said it had 4,000 service calls open with a significant proportion being multi-day cuts. 

“Thirty per cent of the grid has been severely affected with major problem areas being Roodepoort, Hursthill and Randburg (substations which impact multiple areas). They have extremely old infrastructure that is very susceptible to failure. We can’t pinpoint the exact amount of people but approximately 4,000 households and businesses have been affected,” said the city in a statement.

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A generator powering a spaza shop in Dube, Soweto. Most parts of the township are affected by rolling blackouts. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

The city grid has been in near-freefall for years, with about 500 reports of outages different to rolling blackouts reported daily. That number has multiplied as South Africa goes into its third year of rainy La Ninã season and rolling blackouts strike a body blow at the city’s grid. News24 has called it a ‘triple dip La Ninã’.

During rolling blackouts, some older sub-stations must be switched on and off manually, which has left parts of the system on its last legs.  Infrastructure blow-ups are common in the city.

“Power lines and infrastructure cannot be worked on when there is no power, and cable theft increases exponentially during blackouts. Accordingly, the Executive Mayor, Mpho Phalatse has on behalf of City Power submitted an urgent request to Eskom for exclusion from load shedding for a period of 72 hours to clear the current and increasing backlog,” said Nickolaus Bauer, a deputy director of communications for infrastructure in the city.

eThekwini got a rolling blackout reprieve during floods earlier in 2022. Eskom has not yet commented on the Johannesburg city government’s request. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • John Duncan says:

    It is an absolute disgrace that Cele and his lot haven’t slowed or solved the problem of cable theft. Maybe it is low on the policing agenda because the voting majority are not on the power grid and o not experience the problem.

  • Johan Buys says:

    perhaps their people need better training. You can most definitely replace cables and breakers whatever on a dead circuit (the preferred method) and test said repair without needing to energize the circuit with full power (again – the preferred method)

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