Posted on September 1, 2005

Darkness Descends on Egoli

Alex Eliseev, Anna Cox and Lee Rondgangerm, Star (Johannesburg), Aug. 30

Monday morning’s massive power failure has hit businesses, disrupted traffic and left irate residents calling for action.

Sol Mosolo, spokesperson for City Power, said the cause was a problem with the 88kV line that supplied the north-east areas of Johannesburg.

He declined to say where exactly the fault was, or describe in further detail what had gone wrong.

“We have sent our technical team out and they are working on repairing the line. We were able to restore a portion of Rosebank with electricity at 5am this morning,” Mosolo said, appealing to residents to “bear with us”.

Mosolo said all power would hopefully be restored “by the end of the day”.

In March this year Brian Hlongwa, the member of the mayoral committee in charge of utilities, vowed to resign if the problem of power outages wasn’t resolved.

By March, there had been 775 power cuts in Johannesburg over eight months. Five months later, there are still problems.

Hlongwa also promised that City Power’s chief executive, Mogwailane Mohlala, would be fired and other heads would roll as proof of how seriously the city viewed outages.

Hlongwa announced in March that the city was allocating R674-million for the upgrading of infrastructure for the 2005/06 financial year, starting in July.

Mike Moriarty, Johannesburg’s Democratic Alliance leader, said it was a “disgrace” that such an outage was allowed to happen and that there were no alternative power feeds available.

“City Power never appears to have back-up plans in place and this is leading to chaos in the city,” Moriarty said.

Power outages had reduced extensively compared with last year’s figures, Mosolo said.

But Moriarty pointed out that this winter had been mild compared with last year’s.

Mosolo could not comment on the resignation of Brian Hlongwa or the firing of Mohlala. Hlongwa was unavailable for comment.

Killarney Mall tenants were among those left in the dark on Monday morning.

Mugg and Bean general manager Chris Vienings said he was furious, as his business was losing up to R2 000 per hour.

He also said this was at least the 30th power cut the shop had experienced in the past five years.

“I despise this,” he said angrily. “Now we’re just waiting in the dark. Usually by now the whole restaurant would be full.”

Vienings said that despite the power cuts they were forced to pay rent as normal.

Vienings said City Power should manage the problem better.

Nearby, the Wimpy was also in the dark, with customers sitting at tables lit by candle light.

Customers Thembi Khumalo had come in to escape the chilly morning. She works at the Standard Bank and had been looking forward to her morning cup of coffee.

But Wimpy’s manager Bennet Mampa said the restaurant had not had any power since they opened at 7am.

Next door, a dark and empty Juicy Lucy was also missing out on the morning rush and waiters sat around a table chatting.

Mohamed Seedat, owner of the Steers in Kensington, said he had lost around R700 an hour on Monday morning because of the power outage.

“I have so many customers here and I cannot even serve them a cup of tea . . . I just hope they restore the electricity for the lunchtime rush,” he said.

On the roads, metro police officers battled to keep the rush hour traffic flowing smoothly and were controlling many of the intersections along Oxford Road.

Traffic was backed up and dead robot intersections became slow-moving four-way stops but no serious accidents were reported, Metro police spokesperson Wayne Minnaar said.

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