Watch — Stolen Joburg mini-substation recovered after a decade

Johannesburg officials found a substation — normally used to connect residential areas to electricity supply — hooked up on private property, demonstrating the scale of South Africa’s power crisis.

Authorities who’d been looking for the 11-kilovolt mini-substation for the past decade, discovered the equipment at the property of a businessman when they went to cut off the power over outstanding bills, according to Johannesburg electricity utility City Power.

The businessman and other companies in the southwestern suburb of Lenasia owe City Power R1.4 billion ($74 million), it said.

South Africa’s economic growth has been crimped by rolling blackouts implemented by state utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. because it can’t meet demand with its fleet of unreliable coal-powered plants.

Illegal connections to the grid and cable theft are another dimension to the crisis, as municipalities struggle to collect revenue and keep infrastructure intact.

President Cyril Ramaphosa last year ordered army personnel to be stationed at power plants to prevent internal theft and sabotage.

In 2014, four such mini-substations were procured by City Power.

“However, one disappeared without a trace,” the company said. The discovery was made when a new business nearby asked to be hooked up to the stolen equipment.


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Watch — Stolen Joburg mini-substation recovered after a decade