Monday, October 23, 2023

522 113 hours without electricity!

Trying to get work done at the Wimpy in Cresta

The joys of living in ANC-run Joburg! Extended outrages in between load shedding. Last year in September we had a 66 hour power outrage. During CIDC2023 in September, I had to use a studio flat with solar power (normally R7,500 per month rental) to attend the conference because we were having load shedding several times a day. Fortunately for me, the flat was empty and the owners generously allowed me to use it for free, including the Wi-Fi. Wonderful neighbours.
As I write this, we have just finished an ordeal of 113 hours without power, despite there being no national load shedding at all! The power went off unexpectedly on Wednesday 18 September, around 14h50. I logged a ticket (reference no CPWEB4032200) along with the rest of the suburb, and we waited for news. A cable had shorted out and caught fire at the Windsor substation, so naturally City Power had to wait for Eskom. And that's where the lying, cover-ups, PR speak and obfuscation began. At 01h30 on Thursday  City Power closed the ticket. Very sneaky.
By the time I woke up in the morning (Thursday) it was too late to "escalate" the ticket, so I got a new reference number: CPWEB4032870. I spent several hours (and R150) at Bootleggers in Cresta, using their WiFi and recharging my phone and laptop. It turned out that they didn't have any decaf coffee, so I had to settle for some lemon iced tea and a delicious chocolate brownie. I could catch up on emails and get some work done until 6pm.
On Friday I decided to try the Wild Falcon Spur at Heathway (R300), in the hopes they would have decaf coffee. No such luck with the coffee, but the service was good, and the rooibos tea and hamburger was fine. My waiter had the politeness to leave me alone, and few interruptions.
The power came back at 2pm, and so I went back home to carry on catching up with work. All was fine until 20h10 when the power went off again! This time Eskom and City Power were determined to ruin our entire weekend. CPWEB4033907.
On Saturday I went to the gym for a shower and some sanity. Another neighbour offered anyone in the suburb the chance to use their solar power, so I made use of the opportunity for a few hours while my phone recharged and I could use my laptop. Excuses and various (inaccurate and misleading) ETR promises were made and broken by City Power, who naturally tried to shift the blame to Eskom. We listened to the Rugby World Cup semifinals by candlelight on the radio. Another win for the Bokke by a single point, and SA is in to the finals against the All Blacks.
On Sunday I decided to try to take the day off, and went to the gym again, to get rid of my frustration as much as getting some exercise. Eskom were still busy cutting trees (you can't make this stuff up) and then all of a sudden we were given a 17h00 ETR that came and went, and still no power. By this stage four City of Joburg Wards were being affected by the outrage(s). Later we heard that Eskom had restored power to Windsor substattion, just in time for City Power to switch on the Cresta substation and cause another trip. Then City Power needed to wait until Monday for a testing team to come and see what the problem was at Cresta.
On Monday City Power closed my ticket with "Repairs Completed" at 05h16, and I managed to "escalate" it at 07h19 when I woke up. After sleeping in late and making breakfast on a gas cooker, I decided to try out the decaf coffee at the Cresta Wimpy.
Finally! A decent decaf cappuccino, power, and Wi-Fi (but a bit slow). I could hardly believe my luck when I heard that the power had been restored at 1pm. Let's see how long it lasts.
In the meantime, I have learnt a few things about Eskom: they hadn't done maintenance on an "oil cable" for over a year. The contractors they used dug through a live cable in the dark because they didn't bring any lights with them. A real professional outfit! They only inspect their overhead power lines for trees that cause shorting when a short actually happens, and on the weekend, so they have to pay extra for the trees to be cut back. Eskom has no guards for their urban substations, and they usually take 8 hours to show up when called by City Power.
Things I have learnt about City Power: their infrastructure is crumbling at such a rate that they deal with an average of 4000 tickets per day. They do little or no maintenance, and if they can "back feed" a substation or area instead of fixing it, they will do that. They lurch from one fiasco to the next, and never return to do proper repairs. Likewise, they don't have enough cable testing teams, even though most of their problems involve faulty cables. In our suburb they don't lock the substations, so we provide locks for them. In the neighbouring suburb, they insist on using their own padlocks, but they don't always lock them. Go figure. They don't seem to have any lights for working at night, other than the torch on their cell phones.
The ANC has succeeded in damaging and sabotaging more infrastructure since 1994 than they managed in the decades of "armed struggle" before 1994. They are a disgrace and a national embarassment.
Both City Power and Eskom are "run" by ANC "cadre deployees", who are usually lazy, corrupt and clueless. Most ANC municipalities are bankrupt and dysfunctional, as are all State Owned Enterprises, of which Eskom, Transnet, PRASA and the SABC are prime examples.
The Joburg municipality is being systematically run into the ground by the ANC politicians and municipal employees for the last 3 decades, so none of this should come as a surprise, but still it is shocking to have experience it hitting you in the face for 5 days in a row. So I have decided to delay my rates payments by 5 days every month, in a quiet gesture of reciprocity.

Update Tuesday 24 October: Beeld newspaper published this article:

Update Monday 13 November: Yet another City Power blackout. Started at 13:10 on Monday. Still no power on Tuesday, so I enjoyed the Wi-Fi and coffee at Bootleggers in Cresta from 09:30 to 17:00. It finally came back after 30 hours, at 19:30.

Unplanned outrages in Aldara Park for 2023

excluding load shedding:

1. 12 Jan CPWEB3678171 1 hour
2. 13 Jan CPWEB3682778 7 hours
3. 23 Jan CPWEB3694706 3 hours
4. 27-28 Jan CPWEB3698875 12 hours

5. 04 Feb CPWEB3707256 11 hours
6. 12 Feb CPWEB3718828 2 hours

7. 03 Mar CPWEB3788482 2 hours

8. 05 Apr CPWEB3783338 1 hour
9. 08 Apr CPWEB3785526 2 hours
10. 26 Apr CP2989110 9 hours
11. 28 Apr CPWEB3810728 7 hours

12. 02 May CPWEB3813314 5 hours

13. 22 Jul CP3032305 8 hours

14. 01-02 Sep CPWEB3982795 9 hours
15. 03-04 Sep CPWEB3984580 12 hours
16. 11-12 Sep CPWEB3997968 26 hours
17. 29 Sep CPWEB4018162 13 hours

18. 18-23 Oct CPWEB4032200 CPWEB4032870 CPWEB4033907 113 hours (6 days)
6 Nov: City Power "successfully" takes over load shedding switching duties from Eskom.
19. 09 Nov CPWEB4057606 6 hours
20. 13-14 Nov CPWEB4057606 30 hours
21. 22 Nov CPWEB4076387 8 hours
23 Nov: City Power modifies "successful" load shedding schedule after massive outcry from residents.
22. 23 Nov CPWEB4078336 1 hour
23. 26 Nov CPWEB4081778 8 hours

24. 6-14 Dec CPWEB4097231 204 hours.
25. 18-19 Dec CPWEB4110976 22 hours.

Total 522 hours (21 days, 18 hours). Outrages on 44 days. That's an average of nearly 12 hours per outrage. So my 5 day delay in paying my rates has escalated to a month.

Editor's note: I have deliberately misspelt outage as outrage to make a point. Not that anyone at City Power or the City of Joburg will get it.
Update Friday 24 November: Eskom has declared Stage 6 load shedding for the weekend and City Power can't switch everyone on or off on time because they don't have enough qualified staff to flick the switches without electrocuting themselves. So last night (CPWEB4078336 - cancelled) we came on 50 minutes late, and on Tuesday (CPWEB4075389 - cancelled) it was 25 minutes late off, and 50 minutes late back on.
Update Sunday 26 November: The power "tripped" at 14h50 but since "load shedding" was supposed to be from 14h00 to 16h30 we only reported it at 16h45. It came back on after 8 hours at 22h40.
Update Wednesday 6 December: Power went off at 7am on Wednesday. CPWEB4097231, CPWEB4097063, CPWEB4095858, CPWEB4095833, CPWEB4095843, CPWEB4097214, CP3099926, CPWEB4100022, CPWEB4095809, CPWEB4101046. Power still not back after 8 days, and no sign of anything being done anytime soon.
On Thursday the "test team" disconnected one of the phases, and then left the substation unlocked. We haven't seen them since.
On Saturday afternoon there was some brief excitement when this truck arrived and then left a few minutes later.
On Saturday evening the "test team" arrived, and determined exactly the same as the Thursday test team: the cable is faulty.
They left the cable in this condition: one phase running hot to supply some of the houses, The rest are still without power, and the generator for Carvers Restaurant is still running after being shut down when the restaurant closed on Sunday at 5pm. Finally at 7pm power was temporarily restored to all but one home: CPWEB4101046 and the restaurant CP3191075. Now we wait for a new cable, and pray the faulty one doesn't burn out with too much power on the yellow phase.
On Tuesday a team arrived to start digging. A resident wrote: "They have no work permit. No excavation permit. No lock out permits. No diagram of how the wires are in the ground. ... Not sure what would happen if they hit a live wire." At some point the cable tripped, so Cheyne Road is without power again.
On Wednesday they struck a Vumatel cable, so the restaurant now has no power and no fibre connection. I noticed that they seem to have damaged one of the cables:
It's difficult to tell if the damage was done this time or when the cables were dug up in April 2020. I have sent the following email update to City Power:
From: Donn Edwards
Sent: Wednesday, December 13, 2023 11:19 AM
To: 'Tshililo Nefale'
Cc: 'Sipho Gamede' <>; 'Charles Tlouane' <>; 'Tshifularo Mashava' <>; 'Nikki van Dyk' ; 'Beverley Jacobs' ; 'Nthabiseng Moloi' <>; 'Jacob Gaongallwe Mashilwane' <>; 'Isaac Mangena' <>;
Subject: 7 days without power
Importance: High

Hi all
Ignoring these emails will not make them go away. Now we have people digging outside the substation (and disconnecting the fibre link to 45 Cheyne Road) but no one is willing to explain what is going on or providing an ETR.

Then there is this mess:
CP3191075 45 Cheyne Road
CPWEB4094835 46 Cheyne Cancelled/Closed/Completed
CPWEB4094843 44 Cheyne Canceled
CPWEB4095809 49 Cheyne
CPWEB4095821 46 Cheyne Cancelled/Closed/Completed
CPWEB4095833 44 Cheyne Canceled
CPWEB4097063 46 Cheyne Cancelled/Closed/Completed
CPWEB4097214 47 Cheyne
CPWEB4097231 44 Cheyne Job "Completed"
CPWEB4100022 46 Cheyne Cancelled/Closed/Completed
CPWEB4101046 40 Cheyne Road "Completed"
CPWEB4101064 44 Cheyne Job "Completed"
CPWEB4102459 46 Cheyne Cancelled/Closed/Completed
CPWEB4103655 44 Cheyne Closed
CPWEB4105636 44 Cheyne Allocated
CPWEB4105763 46 Cheyne

Some houses in Doring Close and Cheyne Road have been restored for a while, but a switch has tripped somewhere, and 40 and 45 Cheyne Road have been without power for 172 hours and counting.

Please can we have some feedback?
Thanks in advance
Donn Edwards
(City Power customer and ratepayer)
Update 14 December 2023: It turns out that two people did not ignore my emails. Tshilio Nefale (General Manager) and Beverley Jacobs (Ward 98 Councillor) showed up at the substation and started asking difficult questions. Suddenly things started getting fixed. What's more, Tshililo actually listened to her customers, particularly the ladies at 40 Cheyne Road, who have been having power cable issues for years. She got the testing team to show up for the third time, and diagnose the problems properly. By 7pm on Thursday everyone was reconnected, even if it was a "temporary" fix for some of the houses.

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