Westdene residents may sue City Power
Adam Wakefield, News24
Johannesburg - A group of Westdene residents in Johannesburg is considering a class action against utility provider City Power for failing to secure power boxes in the area that are consistently targeted by criminals.
Frikkie Botes and Mark Napier, who would act on behalf of other Westdene residents, believe City Power have been negligent in allowing their equipment to be vandalised. THe believe the lack of security at power boxes has led to power surges in residents homes, causing damage costing tens of thousands of rands.
"Mark Napier approached me, because I have been working with the residents for the last 15 years. The constant power surges we are experiencing and the damage in households are up to R20 000 per a household, sometimes up to R40 000," Botes told News24.
He said that on his frequent foot patrols around Westdene he had found that nearly all of their sub-stations were unlocked, with valuable equipment sometimes secured with just a nut. He said thieves had needed only a wrench on three occasions to open a box in Lewes Road to steal a cable, causing a 380-watt power surge to homes in the area.
At another sub-station, Botes said, the power box had not even been broken into. It was simply opened and the cables stolen.
"It's when they get into the power box to steal the neutral cable or buzz bar, that's when the power surges occur," Botes said.
"This has been going for five years already and it is definitely due to [City Power's] negligence. It's because they don't lock the power boxes and equipment, which is their responsibility. We can't keep on replacing stuff and insurance companies do not want to pay out."
Napier told News24 that the pair had found a lawyer who was willing to take the case, but it was still "early days". They needed to get buy-in from residents and look at a structure for how residents would contribute to the legal action.
"We do know of many incidents in Westdene where power surges have affected residents quite badly," Napier said.
"If [power surges] happen and you don't become aware of it, it can actually cook the wiring in your house. You end up having to rewire parts of your house which is quite expensive."
Napier said residents had approached City Power about securing the sub-stations. but had been told by the utility that they could not afford to do so.
"This is unacceptable," he said.
City Power had not responded to a request for comment by Tuesday afternoon.