South Africa


Bloemfontein left in the dark as lights go out for the whole city overnight

Bloemfontein left in the dark as lights go out for the whole city overnight
Bloemfontein, Free state without power overnight. (Photo: iStock)

This morning, Tuesday 21 March, workers were still on site trying to reconnect the rest of the Free State’s capital city after an unscheduled overnight blackout due to equipment failure.

The whole of Bloemfontein went pitch-dark on the evening of Monday, 20 March – the same day as the national shutdown by the EFF about the state of electricity.

Power to the city went off by 7pm. At first, notifications from stakeholders and community leaders came in from all parts of the city via a WhatsApp group. The group – updated by Mangaung Metro’s electricity distribution company Centlec – keeps stakeholders informed about rolling blackout schedules and power interruptions or outages.

eskom load shedding

Eskom generates almost 90% of South Africa’s electricity. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Kim Ludbrook)

Power confusion

Members of the group were confused about why the power went out, as a notification by Eskom posted earlier in the day announced that rolling blackouts were suspended due to “significant lower than anticipated demand for electricity” until Tuesday 21 March. 

Shortly afterwards, Centlec  spokesperson Lele Mamatu sent an official notice informing the group that there was a power outage at Harvard Substation, confirming that the whole city was experiencing a power outage. He said this outage was caused by an equipment failure. 


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On Tuesday morning, social media was flooded with reports of some neighbourhoods still being without electricity. Centlec informed residents that Eskom restored supply and that the substation’s northern and western lines were switched on by 10pm. “Load” has been taken in neighbourhoods from Noordstad to Universitas and Pellissier. Some on the southern line feeders are still without power. These neighbourhoods include all the townships from Lourier Park to Rocklands and Turflaagte – the biggest section of the city. 

Still trying to reconnect

Mamatu said workers are still on site trying to reconnect the rest of the city. 

Daily Maverick was informed by a source from Eskom that “two 132kv breakers” tripped because of a voltage transformer that blew. He said Botshabelo and Thaba’Nchu – which form part of Mangaung Metro – have not been affected. The reason is that these towns are powered by “ring feeds”. The estimated restoration time is not known, and Eskom is busy with an assessment to establish the cause of the “explosion”. 

Suburbs and townships in the south and east of Bloemfontein have been without power for 15 hours. Gregory Werner, an administrator of the Heidedal community Facebook page “Heidedal Enough is Enough” says they were flooded with posts about the power outage. He says “the fact that this is not due to load shedding is an indication of a serious need for proper maintenance of dilapidating infrastructure”.

Read more in Daily Maverick:Failing State? Corporate SA counts the cost of impact of worsening rolling blackouts

Meanwhile the Free State Health Department released a statement, informing residents that all clinics and hospitals providing 24-hour services are not affected by the power outage. Spokesperson for the provincial department Mondli Mvambi said generators have kicked in at government hospitals and clinics across the city. These include Pelonomi, National – hit hard during the public sector health worker strike earlier this month – Universitas, Free State Psychiatric Hospital, MUCPP Community Health Centre and Batho Clinic. DM

This is a developing story and may be updated.


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