Eskom technicians escape after being held hostage by community members

Eskom employees removing illegal connections from Qandu-qandu informal settlement in Khayelitsha under the protection of police and SANDF members. Photo: Velani Ludidi / GroundUp

The community members of Zonkizizwe in the Ekurhuleni district demanded that the technicians restore power illegal power connections in the area.

The two Eskom technicians that were held hostage by the community members of Zonkizizwe on Sunday, managed to escape unharmed after they were forced to restore illegal power connections in the area.

The technicians were working in Katlehong, Ekurhuleni when they were ceased by a group of people who demanded that the technicians plug them back into the grid, after being without power for a few hours.

Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha told The Citizen on Monday morning that the technicians escaped an hour later without restoring the power after initially being held hostage.

“The incident took place on Sunday in Zonkizizwe. The community members want power to be restored in the area and thankfully the technicians escaped unharmed as one of them knows the area very well,” he said.

Mantshantsha noted it was not the first time that an incident of community members forcing technicians to restore illegal power connections had taken place in the area.

“I can tell you that this isn’t the first time an incident like this has occurred. We have been appealing to the public to stop such acts like this,” he said.

Since 16 June, Eskom has been implementing a load reduction across the high-density areas of Gauteng after it noted a significant rise in network overloading resulting from illegal connections.

The utility said the overloading was also apparent in areas with multiple or backyard dwellings, bypassed meters, and vandalism of the electricity infrastructure.

“These illegal connections and tampering with Eskom equipment result in damages to electrical infrastructure such as transformers, mini-substations and substations in these areas. The affected areas include parts of Cosmo City, Diepsloot, Ivory Park, Orange Farm, Sebokeng, and Soweto,” the utility said in a statement.

Eskom further said it was not in a position to continually repair damaged equipment caused by overloading and illegal connections.

“The illegal connections, meter bypasses and other theft-related activities on our infrastructure continue to be the leading cause for the sporadic and prolonged electricity interruptions, which leave the communities without power for days and Eskom is not in a position to repair damaged equipment on a consistent basis.

The utility added that it continued to monitor the network in real-time, and requested its customers to desist from tampering with electricity infrastructure.

“Eskom continues to safeguard its assets by auditing, removing illegal connections and fixing bypassed meters in an effort to protect the network to operate optimally according to design capacity,” Eskom said.

Eskom also urged users to help them manage the load by switching off appliances such as heaters, stoves and geysers, and only use them when absolutely necessary in order to stabilise the network at the local level.

READ NEXT: Load reduction: More blackouts in Gauteng.

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