City Power spends up to R100 million a year on substation security to combat theft, vandalism

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MMC for Environment and Infrastructure Services Department Michael Sun and City Power Roodepoort Service Delivery Centre GM Sibusiso Xulu inspect the mini substation at the Manufacta Substation.
MMC for Environment and Infrastructure Services Department Michael Sun and City Power Roodepoort Service Delivery Centre GM Sibusiso Xulu inspect the mini substation at the Manufacta Substation.
PHOTO: Alex Patrick/News24

  • City Power spends around R100 million a year on securing substations from vandalism and theft.
  • Load shedding is complicating the situation.
  • The City has already spent its mini substation replacement budget up to 2026.

City Power in Johannesburg spends roughly R100 million a year to secure its substations and mini substations from vandalism and theft.

This is according to Keneilwe Sebola, acting spokesperson for the MMC of Environment and Infrastructure Services in the City of Joburg Michael Sun.

And the amount could triple if the security issues persist. In fact, the City could spend as much as R1 million a day on the replacement of damaged mini substations, she added.

Roodepoort in the dark

Sebola was speaking amid power supply issues in Roodepoort, one of Johannesburg's oldest suburbs, brought about by what she called an "unusually high" amount of vandalism, cable theft and ageing infrastructure.

Last week, nine out of 14 reported incidents of vandalism and theft at mini substations across Johannesburg took place in Roodepoort.

Mini substations can supply up to 100 customers or households with power and the loss of a mini substation can lead to neighbourhood-wide blackouts.

The situation in the area is so bad that the Roodepoort service delivery centre general manager, Sibusiso Xulu, asked for the area to be exempted from load shedding between midnight and 04:00 – peak times for vandalism and cable theft – to minimise damage to mini substations and to allow breathing room for repairs. 

On 19 January, City Power spokesperson Isaac Mangena urged Roodepoort residents to stay calm while City Power addressed the power issues.

Quota exceeded 

MMC for Environment and Infrastructure Services Michael Sun said the recent increase in load shedding stages meant City Power was losing substations faster than they could repair or replace them.

When power is restored to mini substations after load shedding, they are at risk of blowing up, causing further damage to infrastructure and additional blackouts in the area. 

It cost City Power about R200 million to replace more than 390 mini substations in the last 12 months, News24 previously reported.

And, due to the high amount of theft and vandalism, mini substation suppliers are struggling to keep up. 

Sun said:

We have recently been told by mini substation suppliers that City Power has exceeded its [mini substation] order quota up to 2026.

According to Sun, City Power approached power suppliers in Tshwane, Ekurhuleni and Cape Town in 2022 to buy new mini substations to bolster supply in Johannesburg.

"We were told they were also out of stock and in the same situation," he said. 

READ | Load shedding: Johannesburg's plan to supplement failing power supply

City Power now has a standing memorandum of understanding with mini substation suppliers. 

"They understand it is a dire situation," Sun said. He explained that the memorandum prioritises the City's mini substation needs and increases production allocated to City Power.

Additional security

While there are security patrols at substations, City Power is considering additional security to accompany technicians to substations.

This was after a City Power official was attacked at a site in December 2022, according to Sebola. 

Sun added that City Power was also looking at alternative methods of security for substations to protect them from vandals and thieves at an added cost of R100 000 to R200 000 per substation.

Another concern was that incidents were no longer limited to the dead of night.

READ | City Power runs out of stock to replace vandalised mini substations

A mini substation and its security cage opposite Trade Route Mall in Lenasia was recently stolen in broad daylight in a busy street.  

Meanwhile, Sebola said City Power was expecting a mini substation delivery by the end of Tuesday.

"This will hopefully allow the parts of the area to return to normal." 

Residents are encouraged to report suspicious activity around mini substations to 011 490 7900 or to send a WhatsApp message to 083 579 4497.

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