South Africa

City Power to leave illegal connections in hijacked Joburg buildings on – for now

Officials from Johannesburg’s power distribution company delayed plans to cut off electricity supplies to three inner-city buildings that had been illegally connected to the grid over security concerns.

The operation by City Power came two weeks after more than 70 people died in a fire in one of the many derelict buildings in South Africa’s biggest urban centre that have been illegally taken over by slum lords and rented out.

Dozens of people who said they lived in the buildings on Wednesday refused entry to the officials and a small contingent of accompanying police officers.

“We have to ensure the safety of everyone involved, and in our assessment, we realized the situation was escalating” to the point where people could have been injured or killed, Sergeant Thela, one of the officials, told reporters.

The operation will resume in about a week once proper planning has been done, and the necessary security measures have been put in place, he said. 

The officials did manage to disconnect the power supply to one derelict building. The owners of the four properties jointly owe the city more than R13 million. The buildings form part of a stop-start inner city redevelopment project known as the Maboneng Precinct, which has cost investors billions of rand.

Addressing members of the media at the City Power depot in New Doornfontein, the entity’s spokesperson apologised to journalists about the developments.

“Let me start by apologising for some of the mistreatment that journalists received, especially at the hands of the tenants in some of the buildings. It is really uncalled for, and City Power apologises for that,” Isaac Mangena said.

He said when they left the scene, it was becoming volatile.

“The police decided to quickly pull out without ensuring that most of you [media] are actually safe, and we will talk to them about that so when we are engaged in these kinds of operations, every person that is part of that operation should return to base safely,” he said.


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