Eskom says it had to evacuate staff from the power utility’s offices in Mabopane, north of Pretoria, claiming that angry residents of Morula View held them against their will in a protest over erratic electricity provision in the area.

News24 reports that, according to the residents, they have been without power since 19 August, after a mini-substation transformer was vandalised.

The report quotes community member Ranku Mabuso as having said: ‘We are not holding the Eskom employees hostage. All we did was park outside their offices. We did not harm anyone, even though they have decided to lock themselves up and not come out to communicate with us.’

Mabuso claimed that Eskom had promised that power would be restored if 50% of the residents paid their outstanding electricity bills, but had ‘since changed their statement and now they are saying that we should wait for the end of November’.

Eskom spokesperson Amanda Qithi said in a statement that the power utility ‘has experienced high incidents of equipment failure due to the network being overloaded through illegal connections, unauthorised operations on the network, meter bypasses and tampering, and infrastructure vandalism’.

She said Eskom was dealing with a shortage of mini-substations, which had led to delays in the replacement of equipment.