Ernest Wolmarans
3 minute read
11 Apr 2014
6:00 am

Kya Sand – Joburg’s forgotten business hub?

Ernest Wolmarans

Kya Sands, Johannesburg is a large industrial area home to hundreds of businesses representing a diverse array of economic activity.

Workers load tubes at Duraline/Nextube in Kya Sands yesterday. The area has been plagued by severe power failures causing financial losses to many businesses located there.

And the area has been hit hard by power outages over the past few weeks, leading to hundreds of thousands of rand in lost production and spoiled stock.

The central kitchen of Eclectic Brands – which owns fast-food brands Pizza Perfect, Burger Perfect and Chicken Tyme – is located there. CEO Mike Solomou said the area had become accustomed to sporadic outages over the years, but that these have increased significantly in frequency and length this year. The past three weeks have been particularly bad.

A factory worker prepares dough in an industrial mixer at the Pizza Perfect factory in Kya Sands yesterday.  Business owners and representatives of the City of Johannesburg met to discuss the increasingly serious situation, also yesterday.  Pictures: Tracy Lee Stark.

A factory worker prepares dough in an industrial mixer at the Pizza Perfect factory in Kya Sands yesterday. Business owners and representatives of the City of Johannesburg met to discuss the increasingly serious situation, also yesterday. Pictures: Tracy Lee Stark.

“We’ve seen outages practically every day, and for periods as long as 36 hours. While we’ve largely absorbed the losses so far, it’s not sustainable,” he said.

The facility is where dough, sauces and processed meats are prepared for distribution to around 120 outlets. These are mainly in Gauteng, but include some in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape.

“Without us, there is no continuity in terms of stock,” Solomou said.

He said the company had been forced to throw out up to 600 kilograms of meat at a time when outages occurred during the cooking process.

“The cookers can maintain the necessary heat for around 45 minutes, but if the outage is longer, we just throw it out. We can’t take the risk given the health standards we adhere to,” Solomou said.

Tens of thousands of rand of spoiled stock in cold storage at the facility was also removed and disposed of with assistance from the health department recently after an outage lasting well over 24 hours, he said.

Dura-Line/Nextube, an underground cable conduit manufacturer, estimated around 80 hours of lost production during the recent spate of outages.

The production line grinds to a halt when the power dips or goes out completely, necessitating a three-hour process to start it up again once power is restored, said general manager Juergen Windblacher.

“We’ve had it that a 3 000-metre cable is about to come off the line and the power goes out, leaving us with say 2 980 metres of finished cable that the customer refuses to take because it isn’t to spec,” Windblacher said.

Financial director Jacques Engelbrecht estimated the loss to the company at around R750 000. And not only is that time lost – the hours lost in production have to be made up for as well.

Windblacher echoed Solomou’s concern that getting hold of City Power via its call centre was near impossible.

At a meeting yesterday between City of Johannesburg officials and concerned business owners, many of whom are affiliated with the Kya Sand Association (KSA), cable theft was cited as the major problem.

Anda Mbikwana, spokesperson for Infrastructure Services and Environment MMC Matshidiso Mfikoe told the meeting that the City was working closely with police and private security to stem the tide.

KSA’s Steve Damster said the association was satisfied with resolutions taken at the meeting. One “huge bug bear” has been difficulties businesses encounter in communicating with the council. The association wants to see prioritised interventions by City Power technical staff when outages hit.

“Only time will tell if we will see an improvement,” Damster said.