Darkness in Johannesburg – man made …


(Posted 08th September 2013)

Joburg held to ransom screamed the headline when I arrived in South Africa’s industrial and commercial capital city of Johannesburg, which had the previous night been plunged into darkness and in many parts still was off power, as a result of alleged sabotage by staff. We in Uganda are of course used to power outages, and while suggestions of sabotage are thankfully on the rare side, there however are plenty of other suggestions on the Twitter and FB timelines as to the causes of such blackouts, which in some parts of the Kampala metropolitan area are as regular as day gives way to night. Some of the reasons floated are outright funny, some are outright acid, some truly hit home but all contain a grain or a sack of grains of truth.

In South Africa the reason was, or so the media suggested, that Johannesburg’s City Power was trying to eliminate overtime payments, which in some cases apparently tripled employees income, as the company struggled to stay financially afloat. Whatever the true reasons, it is now a police matter who are seeking to speak with dozens of City Power staff who allegedly used their key cards to gain access to installations, switched off the power and then calmly walked away after plunging the city into darkness.

Tourists, as were the locals of course, were left bewildered as to the immediate causes of the city wide power cuts, and though hotels immediately switched to back up power generators, only those residences and businesses with such equipment on standby could ‘light up’ whereas the rest of the city had to do with candles or torches.

The city authorities vowed to bring the culprits to book, investigating the use of key cards and looking at CCTV footage but the harm which was done is hard to undo and a reputation once lost is well near impossible to restore. And what a change it was for me to fly away the next day again, out into the Indian Ocean, across Madagascar to Reunion, where in stark contrast the lights during an entire week did never flicker, or go out, unless oneself turned the switch to turn the light off when leaving the hotel room. Read all about the stories from Reunion right here, where else.

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