While most South Africans spent the past week griping about rolling power cuts, the outages proved a blessing for cable thieves, who are able to work during the blackouts without fear of electrocution.

Theft of copper cables — already a perennial problem in SA — “is very high during load-shedding,” said Isaac Mangena, a spokesperson for City Power. “The schedules we send to customers are also available to thieves who can plan to do what they want for four hours at a time.”

The sudden surge of returning power also caused explosions at sub-stations and transformers, leading to a rush of complaints from customers and delays in restoring supply. Power still wasn’t restored to the northern Johannesburg suburbs of Auckland Park and Rosebank on Friday, along with several areas in the south of the city.

Maintenance workers are taking as long as 24 hours to respond to complaints, compared with a normal response time of several hours after a fault has been lodged.

“Communities must bear with us as we try and reverse this,” City Power CEO Lerato Setshedi said in a separate e-mail, adding that it would take two to three days for normal operations to resume.