Electricity interruptions in the GCR

In order to mark National Energy Month, observed in South Africa during May, this GCRO map presents data from an electricity-related question in the sixth Quality of Life survey conducted in Gauteng in 2020/21. The map shows the percentage of respondents in each geographical area reporting that they had experienced electricity interruptions on a weekly basis.

Electricity interruptions are caused by overlapping factors related to demand, generation, transmission and local distribution. Constraints on generation periodically result in load-shedding (CSIR 2021), and therefore the vast majority of respondents stated that they experienced at least some interruptions in the year prior to the survey (fieldwork was conducted from October 2020 - May 2021). However load-shedding is unlikely to have been the cause of weekly interruptions by itself since it did not occur on a weekly basis over this period. Load-shedding therefore needs to be considered alongside other causes of interruptions including lightning, insufficient maintenance, transformer malfunctions, overloading of infrastructure, cable theft, vandalism and illegal connections. While most Gauteng residents reported experiencing at least occasional outages, weekly outages occur in certain townships and informal settlements.

According to the survey, 94.2% of the survey respondents stated that they had either a prepaid or a postpaid electricity connection (72.8% of all respondents have prepaid connection, while 21.4% have a postpaid connection). Those with an electricity connection were asked the question ‘In the past 12 months, how often, if ever, did you experience electricity interruptions?’ As shown in Table 1, two thirds of respondents with electricity connections said that they experienced interruptions at least once a month, and 22% reported that they experienced interruptions every week. In other words, over this period, one in five households in the province was impaired weekly in their ability to enable learners to study, to run small businesses, and to undertake the many daily activities that electricity enables.

Table 1: In the past 12 months, how often did you experience electricity interruptions?


A comparison between the previous Quality of Life survey five (2017/18) and the most recent survey shows that the situation has deteriorated. The percentage of Gauteng residents with electricity interruptions occurring at least once a week increased from 4.8% in 2017/18 to 22.4% in 2020/21 (Figure 1). All municipalities have seen an increase in weekly electricity interruptions. The problem is particularly acute in Emfuleni, Merafong and Johannesburg, where more than 30% of respondents say that they now experience electricity interruptions at least once a week. While some of these interruptions may be attributed to load-shedding, the significant increase in interruptions does point to other issues with electricity distribution.

Figure 1: Change in percentage with electricity interruptions at least once a week between 2017/18 and 2020/21, by municipality (also see de Kadt et al, 2021).

Graph weekly interruptions.png

Figure 2 below provides the percentage of respondents in each geographic area who said that they experienced interruptions every week (mesozones were used for geographic areas, see Note on Method below). In mesozones shaded orange, 38.2–61.9% of respondents reported weekly interruptions. These include areas that are in or near Mabopane, Daveyton, Soweto, Orange Farm, Fochville and Sharpeville. (Note that weekly interruptions may occur in one part of a mesozone, which explains why some respondents indicate that they experience weekly outages and others do not.) The spatial pattern of regular interruptions is fairly widespread across the City of Johannesburg and Sedibeng District Municipality, while the other Districts and Metros show more concentrated patterns of interruptions. The worst affected areas – those shaded dark red, with between 62% and 100% of respondents experiencing outages at least once a week – are Wedela (West Rand District), Lawley (City of Johannesburg) and Tsakane (Ekurhuleni). These are areas in some of Gauteng’s townships, state housing projects and informal settlements, characterised by rapid growth, high population densities (brought about in part by backyard dwellings) and infrastructures that were originally development for much smaller populations.

Figure 2: Percentage reporting weekly interruptions


Unplanned, unpredictable and lengthy electricity cuts are a significant cause for concern in the Gauteng City-Region. These interruptions have considerable implications since there are important relationships between infrastructure quality, economic growth and investment, and households’ urban quality of life. They represent increasing uncertainty and frustration for businesses, and a rising burden on households.

Note on method

Mesozones are a matrix of polygons, every one roughly 50km2 in size, covering the entire country. The size of mesozones enables spatial comparison in a way that is sometimes more effective than other spatial layers with disproportionately sized polygons, such as that of electoral wards (CSIR 2018, Gotz et al. 2022). The mesozones shown in grey had samples of 15 or fewer respondents and were therefore excluded from the analysis.


Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – CSIR. (2018). South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Mesozone 2018v1 Dataset. Available online at http://stepsa.org/socio_econ.html.

de Kadt, J., Hamann, C., Mkhize, S.P., & Parker, A. (Eds.). (2021). Quality of Life Survey 6 (2020/21): Overview Report. Johannesburg: Gauteng City-Region Observatory (GCRO).

Gotz, G., Maree, M. and Hamann, C. (2022). ‘Economic impacts of Covid-19’, GCRO Map of the month, Gauteng City-Region Observatory, April 2022. Available online at: https://www.gcro.ac.za/outputs/map-of-the-month/detail/economic-impacts-covid-19/

Edits and input:

Richard Ballard, Christina Culwick Fatti, Graeme Götz and Gillian Maree


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