Maverick Citizen


Massive explosion and electricity outages leave Nelson Mandela Bay facing a week without water

Massive explosion and electricity outages leave Nelson Mandela Bay facing a week without water
Unsplash | A photo of the Coega substation ablaze. (Photo: Supplied) | Nelson Mandela Bay Executive Mayor Retief Odendaal visits the burnt-out substation (Photo: Supplied)

The Nelson Mandela Bay metro braces for week-long water outages after two major electricity failures and a substation explosion.

A large substation in Nelson Mandela Bay’s industrial development zone exploded on Saturday night, causing more widespread water outages in a metro that has been hard-hit by ongoing water shortages and drought.

The explosion led to the third major electricity blackout to hit the water supply line in four days.

Authorities said there were signs of forced entry at the substation.

Water supply to Nelson Mandela Bay has been in crisis for some time with supply dams now having only 6.97% of water left, or around 19,114 megalitres.

nelson mandela bay odendaal

Nelson Mandela Bay Executive Mayor Retief Odendaal visits the site of the Coega substation explosion. (Photo: Supplied)

Nelson Mandela Bay is one of the country’s widest metros, making water crisis management very difficult. Its water supply is mainly from the Nooitgedacht Water Scheme, which requires it to pump water from its eastern side to its western side, but electricity failures make this impossible.

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“This has seriously affected our ability to stabilise the system, which simply can’t meet demand,” Nelson Mandela Bay Executive Mayor Retief Odendaal said of the three extensive electricity outages that had hit the city since Thursday.

The first one saw a crucial pump at the Motherwell Pump Station go off, which meant the metro could not pump water from the Nooitgedacht scheme.

On Thursday night, an overhead cable snapped on the Summit line, tripping the Ditchling substation and leaving the Loerie Pump Station offline, leading to a massive water outage.

“We saw one reservoir after the other being depleted last night due to high demand,” Odendaal said on Sunday.

“We are disappointed that consumers are non-responsive to this crisis. While there are so many people that are doing their utmost to conserve our precious water resources, there are also those that remain irresponsible by refusing to change their water consumption lifestyle.

“We have started to block water supply to some reservoirs in a bid to redirect water to zones that have been without water for days. This will mean different areas will start experiencing water outages that may last up to a week.”


Odendaal said fines of up to R5,000 would be issued to anyone found contravening restrictions. Residents have been asked to report culprits to the municipality. 

Then, on Saturday night, the Coega substation exploded, causing damage estimated at R40-million.

“We just heard one hell of a bang, and then our power went off,” said Eileen Leander, who lives at the Aloes Community. “I am angry because the power came back later, but now my television’s sound doesn’t work any more.”

Odendaal visited the substation on Sunday morning and convened the emergency joint operations committee. The committee said after the meeting that “foul play” was suspected.

Fifteen large industries housed at the Coega Special Economic Zone (SEZ) were left without power for hours, along with residents in Motherwell and the surrounding suburbs. The SEZ is home to several large companies that require 24-hour refrigeration.

Metro spokesperson Mthubanzi Mniki said the metro was launching a full independent investigation into the cause of the explosion. 

On Sunday, crisis meetings were held with the Coega Development Corporation and the affected businesses. 

“As a short-term electricity solution and to circumvent further negative impact on customers and residents, plans are under way to back-feed and restore the electricity supply from another substation also within the Coega SEZ,” Mniki said. “In the medium term, a line will be constructed to reconnect the affected residents and industry from the nearby substation while construction work to rehabilitate the substation continues.

“Security is currently being reinforced to protect critical strategic infrastructure,” he said.

Theft and vandalism

Vandalism of electricity infrastructure has been rife in Nelson Mandela Bay for the past few years. Following several incidents, the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber’s Struandale cluster, located about 20km from the substation that exploded on Saturday night, appointed armed security guards to protect substations, instituting 24-hour patrols and installing security cameras.

Denise van Huyssteen, CEO of the business chamber, said she hoped the initiative would help address vandalism at these key facilities and prevent power outages commonly caused by acts of criminality in the area. 

“Over the past year or so, it has become apparent that cable and infrastructure theft and vandalism are among the greatest threats to our local economy. In 2021, there were nine unplanned power outages in the Struandale area, and since the start of this year, the figure has reached 16, highlighting the seriousness of this problem.”

Van Huyssteen said the attacks on infrastructure in the metro were a significant concern because they affected water and electricity supply.

“It is equally as destructive as load shedding,” she said. 

Ayanda Vilakazi, from the Coega Development Corporation, said the organisation would comment on Monday once details became clearer. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Rob Scott says:

    The country is falling apart at a rate of knots that is astounding even the most pessimistic of people.

  • Dr Know says:

    Forced entry, explosions, infrastructure damage. Meticulous disabling of key installations. Stealing railway lines is equivalent to blowing up railway lines to cripple transport and mobility. Then torch the trucks that do the job of the railways and block the highways. Burning trains is more effective than derailing them, they cannot be salvaged. Do all of this under the guise of crime or some other cause that blows smoke over your real political intent. A familiar pattern of insurgent and guerrilla destabilisation methods. What is happening, are we at war again?

  • Barry Messenger says:

    Exploding substations, a new South African malaise…

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    Vandalism of infrastructure must be treated as treason forthwith and those found guilty sentenced to life in prison, with no option of parole. Time to actually get serious about this, but given that the ANC is in hock to criminal syndicates all over the country (when they’re not the key criminals themselves) it’s almost certain that Kitskonstabel Cele and Emperor Cyril will do the square root of bugger all. Again.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Political sabotage finished and klaar. Expect more of this around the country building up to the elections. Great opportunity for the DA to get some positive PR before the Giftof the Givers get there or before the RET faction/EFF use it as an opportunity!

  • Hiram C Potts says:

    We’re on a downward spiral into anarchy & chaos at every level.
    Meanwhile the ANC continues gorging itself at the trough & Cyril the somnambulist does what he does best, nothing!

  • Michael Shepstone says:

    I am beginning to believe these incidents are part of an orchestrated attack aimed at destabilizing what is left of this country.
    Surely it is time to treat crimes like this as treason and punish wrongdoers accordingly.

  • Barrie Lewis says:

    It was clear when almost all the copper telephone wires were vandalised and shipped to China that some very senior people in the police and government were involved. How else could theft on that scale have happened?
    And now that there are few telephone lines left, the syndicates have turned to copper from electrical cables; and then it will be copper water pipes.
    One has to let those very senior people “eat a little bit” I suppose will be the official reaction of Cyril’s government. Until finally they have eaten the whole country and there’s nothing left.

  • Francois Smith says:

    Strange it took them so long to deploy security.

  • John Forbes says:

    Clearly not coincidental, the same actors as were behind the KwaZulu-Natal & Gauteng July 2021 Insurrection must be at play. Who in their view may best benefit from instability when the masses rise up, the RET faction! Where is SAPS and SSA? Again, nowhere to be found. The instigators of the July 2021 Insurrection are yet to be found. All they have found are a few rats and mice and even that has not been concluded!

  • Dario Tanziani says:

    Yes we are at war with the criminals and their political masters who intend to strip the country of everything they can.

  • Bruce Q says:

    We must expect sabotage and vandalism to increase in the build-up to elections.
    Until the government starts calling these acts exactly what they are – TREASON – and react with force that demonstrates at least some form of determination, SA will fall into anarchy.
    And this is exactly what the thieves and corrupt individuals both inside and outside the ruling party are trying to achieve. It’s the only way that can stay out of jail.
    The Zupta clan are still hard at work!

  • Jacqualine Pratt says:

    The KZN Ugu district on the south coast has been without water for weeks, sometimes months at a time for the last 5 years or more. This issue desperately needs exposure and investigative journalism and publicity by DM. Ugu is insolvent and incapable but provincial government refuse to put them under administration.

  • Danial Ronald Meyer says:

    LACK of routine maintenance is undoubtedly a major contributor, but a failure to upgrade and expand an aging infrastructure is swiftly pushing South Africa (SA) towards the classification of a ‘failed state’.

    At this rate SA will soon relinquish its position as Africa’s most industrialized nation.

    Having been associated with the ANC, in one way of another since 1979, never thought I would, but sadly I must now admit, that the ANC is not only the cause of the rot and corruption, but spawned its creep, nurtured its acceleration and now fosters its grip on the nation.

    A sad reality: Attempts to reform the ANC from within is no longer and option.

  • Helen Harper says:

    John Cawood: This has been my firm belief for a very long time. It is about time that government acknowledged it and we could all get used to the idea that SA is in the grips of a Putinesque civil war and start civil defence units before it is too late.

  • Peter Oosthuizen says:

    The country has fallen into a blackhole!

  • Paul Fanner says:

    As far as I know, the cooling oil in transformers needs changing on a regular basis. It degrades over time and no longer works properly. According to a fellow resident here, who was a Shell staffer, he’d noticed sales of the oil had fallen off. That was quite some time back . I would not be surprised if NBM had not done the necessary, and the transformer overheated

  • John Smythe says:

    @Jacqualine Pratt. They got what they voted for.

  • Andre Toit says:

    It`s about time that the “eat a little bit” brigade start suffering some untreatable indigestion !!

  • Gordon Bentley says:

    This also hints of an act of treason. Who is responsible? These nasty, selfish people must be found and jailed. Rewards must me posted. Anything shold be done which will bring these despicable people to face the law.

  • Ian Callender-Easby says:

    Ye shall reap what ye sow. Enjoy your harvest, ANC voters.

  • Jon Quirk says:

    We are indeed at war, with the middle class being the victims of all the violence and rampant destruction which is all about an ANC turf war between the incumbents – the Cyrilites – and the RET forces, a combination of EFF and Zuma-ites, who badly want to again get their mitts off the upwards of multiples of the R1 billion a month filched from Eskom, with of course further gargantuan sums from the other SOE, municipalities and central government itself.

    And the ruling government, itself a very uneasy alliance, including many deeply implicated and corrupt individuals is, in theory, trying to stem the tide, yet seem totally incapable of achieving anything meaningful.

    Today’s London Times has a lead article on the anger against the ruling elite, titled “Anger at ‘rock star’ lives of ANC ministers amid government failures”. Its an interesting read that sadly too few South Africans will get to see (behind a paywall).

    And Ramaphosa still sits on his hands, twiddles his thumbs and simply does diddly-squat.

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