The authorities are investigating the Robertsham substation fire, and Johannesburg mayor Mpho Moerane says political sabotage cannot yet be ruled out.
The fire has resulted in at least 16 areas in the south of Johannesburg being without power since Monday evening.
With the 2021 local government elections less than two weeks away, Moerane told City Press that:
“I don’t think it is politically influenced. The person who guards the site informed us that he heard something like a door being closed or a bang before the blast. But from just that, we cannot simply conclude that it was some form of political sabotage. It might be sabotage, but not a political one, I don’t think so,” said the new Johannesburg mayor.
Robertsham, Booysens, Booysens Reserve, Crown Gardens, Ridgeway, Mondeor, Gillview, Glenanda, Ophirton, Evans Park, Ormonde, Winchester Hills, Southdale, Aeroton, Nasrec and Chrisville are without electricity as a result of the inferno.
Many residents have taken to Twitter to express their frustration, something Moerane said painted municipalities in a bad light, more so with the looming elections. “It is easy for people to sabotage such key points, causing discomfort to residents and communities, and then blame the municipality for a lack of service delivery.
“I have had discussions with the CEOs of City Power and Johannesburg Water to deploy more security at our key strategic points, such as substations, pump stations and water waste treatment stations, so that we are more vigilant during this time.”
Following the clean-up at the substation, which began on Tuesday, according to a statement released by City Power on the same day, “power supply has been restored to four suburban areas: Robertsham, Ormonde, Ridgeway and West Turffontein”.
“We are therefore convinced that the remaining work will be completed sometime tonight [Tuesday] or early tomorrow morning [Wednesday] to allow us to connect all affected customers ... as soon as is humanly possible,” read the statement.
However, by Wednesday morning most areas were still without power.
Moerane said: “We are hoping that, by the end of business today, all affected areas will have their power restored. By 5pm today, all transformers should be back on.”
On Tuesday, DA ward 55 councillor Rashida Landers said promises could not be made as to when electricity would be restored.
On her way to the substation on Wednesday morning, she told City Press: “City Power is doing their utmost. Fire trucks are on site.”
BUT WHY POLITICAL SABOTAGE?
Speaking to City Press, political analyst Ongama Mtimka explained that the challenge in South Africa is that we have political groupings that are losing power.
“It is not uncommon for groups that are losing political power and groups that have nothing to lose to actually try to augment their power through guerrilla war type of political activity,” he said. “It’s not a new phenomenon.
“There have been allegations that, even with some service delivery protests, community anger gets to be manufactured and destruction of infrastructure gets to be a focal point, because sometimes even business interests play a role to ensure that, once the new government starts its term, they have, as a project, the rebuilding of whatever was destroyed.”