Fix the town

Crisis group set to work with council

A CRISIS committee is set to be established to deal with power and water cut challenges facing the Komani area. Komani business owners called the meeting to discuss related concerns and the deterioration of the town’s infrastructure with executive mayor Lindiwe Gunuza Nkwentsha on Tuesday evening.

Over 70 business owners attended the meeting with municipal leadership and Ken Clark, who spoke on behalf of the business body, saying they were willing to work with the cash-strapped municipality to alleviate some of the challenges. “We are in this together. This is our town and we will make it work – but if we are going to do that then we will need a level of cooperation that we have never seen before.”

It was revealed at the meeting that the electrical network had not been maintained for 12 years due to various reasons such as budget constraints, a lack of human resource capacity and the lack of a proper maintenance plan. “This means that the network is dangerous to the point that we are operating it irresponsibly and this has been pointed out on a number of occasions.”

Clark said the network was in a state of collapse. “Apparently there are 41 major cable faults in the town. If we could fix them, the power outages that we experience for two days at a time could only last for one hour. Now it is possible that we could get a breakdown of the electrical system that would leave this town without electricity for more than two weeks. We have to act urgently.”

The power and water cuts were having a negative impact on business. “I don’t know what it costs everybody else, but the last blackout cost me more than R500000. What we should have spent on maintaining this infrastructure in one month, businesses are losing in one day. We cannot continue on this path.”

Clark suggested that a crisis committee between businesses and the municipality be formed urgently to work on challenges facing the basic infrastructure of Komani. “Public and private partnership has worked in this town in the past and we can make it work again. This town has streets that have not been resurfaced in over 40 years.”

He said the issues at hand could be addressed. “We are looking forward to working with the mayor on this project. We would need to commit R5-million to R10-million immediately and prioritise the really bad things that need to be fixed, get a contractor and do some basic maintenance.”

The right skills would have to be in place to achieve the desired outcome. “We have some electricians in the town and they are running themselves ragged trying to fix problems – they go from one crisis to another – so we can not expect more out of them. We need to get someone who can systematically start fixing the many cable faults.”

Border Kei Chamber of Business Komani branch chairwoman Adre Bartis said they had also engaged with Eastern Cape premier Phumulo Masualle last week about the situation in Komani.“We are quite concerned with what is going on. ”A partnership with all stakeholders could solve the problems.

“As businesses and ratepayers we want to make sure that we grow the economy of Komani, but we can not do that if we do not have a partnership with the municipality.”Gunuza Nkwentsha said the municipality was in a financial crisis.“ The new entity does not have a budget at this point in time and we are still looking forward to being assisted with a budget from treasury. We have no problem with the crisis committee.

We need to come with solutions on how we can work together, but we do not have money and that is our problem.”She said the municipality was still in the process of appointing an electrical engineer. “We are using a service provider who lives in East London, so whenever the problems arise the person is not around. The electricity is what is frustrating everyone so we are prioritising that or this municipality will go down.”

The meeting ended with names being submitted and the crisis forum is set to be established today.

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