Eskom has expressed concern about incidents in which its offices are blockaded and employees are intimidated and assaulted — and in some instances held hostage by community members.

Eskom said there were violent protests at its offices in Braamfischer and Klipsruit in Soweto, Ivory Park, Orange Farm and Winterveldt last week.

Vandalisation of Eskom infrastructure was also a problem.

"The members of various communities bypass their meters, illegally connect themselves to the network and vandalise electricity infrastructure, which leads to sporadic power supply interruptions," Eskom's operations and maintenance manager Motlhabane Ramashi said.

"This is because the transformers become overloaded, particularly during winter, and subsequently catch fire or explode as their protections have been interfered with and vandalised," Ramashi said. 

He said Eskom employees were frequently harassed and intimidated while driving or attending to problems.

"The safety of Eskom employees remains a concern, and cases have been reported to the law enforcement agencies for further investigation," Ramashi said.

He said that as a result of these incidents, Eskom was not in a position to continuously replace mini-stations and pole-mounted transformers in areas where residents are not paying for electricity.

Ramashi said the extreme measure of withdrawing services in those areas was temporarily implemented to protect employees until the areas were declared safe for operations.

"We condemn violent behaviour and urge our communities to collaborate with Eskom and their respective councillors to deal with electricity-related matters in the Gauteng operating unit," Ramashi said.