Johannesburg in meltdown – with dry taps, no power and a new mayor
South Africa’s economic hub, the City of Johannesburg, is punch-drunk from four major blows hitting it this week.
Like the rest of South Africa, the city is suffering through the longest streak of rolling blackouts on record – but on top of this, it has had to contend with water restrictions, a sweltering heatwave, and significant political disruptions with a change of government focused on petty politics.
Shift in power
The Gauteng hub has been embroiled in a contentious fight over who runs it, with Mpho Phalatse, the ex-mayor of Joburg, being ousted from her position on 30 September after the city’s multi-party coalition government fell apart, and a vote of no confidence in Phalatse passed.
The coalition government that originally put her in the position comprised the DA, ACDP, FF Plus, COPE, IFP, and ActionSA, with the PA joining earlier in 2022.
However, political in-fighting among the coalition parties saw COPE and the PA vote against its partners, toppling the DA-led government and supplanting its leadership with ANC mayor, Dada Morero, who stood uncontested.
The coalition in Joburg has now fallen apart; and while Phalaste argues her case in court, the new leadership is already looking to make changes – like potentially reinstating some 130 workers part of the former ANC government who were dismissed when the DA took over.
In the meantime, the city continues to operate without established leadership as it awaits new leaders to be appointed by he mayor.
National power utility Eskom announced on Thursday (6 October) that load shedding will continue for the next few days despite being eased to a lower stage. The company noted that load shedding is necessary as a result of a shortage of generation capacity due to breakdowns and the need to replenish emergency reserves.
City Power, the municipal provider for Joburg’s power, has consistently been releasing alerts of planned and sporadic outages.
The group has urged customers to switch off major and non-essential appliances during load shedding or any other power interruptions to try and avoid an overload when it brings the power back online.
When bringing power back online, the group has been hampered by acts of vandalism. Earlier this week, City Power called on the South African Police Service and other law enforcement agencies to do more to curb the increase in the rate of electricity infrastructure theft and vandalism.
City Power calls on the @SAPoliceService and other law enforcement agencies to do more to help curb the increase in the rate of vandalism and theft of electricity infrastructure around Roodepoort. @JoburgMPD @CityofJoburgZA pic.twitter.com/hc6zXBWwJ5
— @CityPowerJhb (@CityPowerJhb) October 5, 2022
Rand Water has urged residents of Gauteng, including the City of Joburg, to implement water-saving to avoid necessitating the move to higher stages of restrictions in the province.
On 4 October, the water utility said that it would implement stage 2 water restrictions on users that were high consumers. Rand Water said that over the last two weeks prior, water consumption had increased to a point where overall storage capacity declined by 20%.
According to Joburg Water, customers in lower-lying areas of the city may still have water, but those in higher areas could be without supply.
This was in part due to its reservoirs coming under pressure amid a heatwave in the province.
Speaking with ENCA, the Johannesburg Water CEO Ntshavheni Mukwevho said that power failures have made it more difficult to manage the high water demand due to warmer temperatures.
He added that load shedding also affects localised pump stations that carry the bulk water supply to customers.
To rub salt in the wound, the city is currently experiencing an intense heatwave, with the greater Gauteng area seeing temperatures in the upper 30s.
The South African Weather Service (SAWS) has extended a heatwave warning until Friday (7 October) for Gauteng, the North West, northern Free State and parts of Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
The service recommends that South Africans in these areas stay hydrated and out of direct sunlight or remain indoors between the hours of 11h00 and 15h00.
Major Gauteng hubs like Pretoria are expected to see temperatures of 37 degrees by Friday, with Johannesburg three degrees behind at 34.