Blackouts hit Johannesburg after cable thieves’ deaths

The energy supplier of Johannesburg reported on Wednesday that two people were electrocuted while attempting to steal power cables, the incidents resulted in power outages in parts of the South African city, leaving some areas in darkness.

City Power reported the discovery of “burnt beyond recognition” bodies of two people this week, amid a noticeable “spike in vandalism and theft” that has been impacting its infrastructure.

According to company spokesman Isaac Mangena, one body was recovered from inside a transformer at a substation in a western suburb, while the second body was found near cut cables in a trench in the southern township of Soweto.

The theft of electricity and railway cables for copper has been a longstanding issue in South Africa, with authorities attributing the problem to criminals.

The widespread theft worsens the country’s power crisis and causes disruptions in the transportation system.

In a bid to curb the practice, which companies estimate costs the country almost 50 billion rand ($2.8 billion) annually, the government imposed a ban on exports of scrap metal in late 2022.

City Power reported a total of 114 similar cases this month.

Over the past financial year, the total number of such cases amounted to 2,247, City Power stated. The company also mentioned that 278 arrests were made as part of investigations related to these incidents.

“Due to these crimes, essential services such as water and health services are disrupted, economic activity stops, mobility is halted as traffic lights don’t work, small businesses close and residents are plunged into darkness,” Mangena said.

The recent spike in cases seemed to be part of a coordinated effort, indicating possible involvement of a crime syndicate, he added added.

Scroll to Top