Power outages frustrate residents

Residents and business owners were livid over power outages that affected most areas in Komani.

The Rep reported (‘Electricity woes as winter creeps in’, July 5 2019) that an oil purification process which cost the Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality (EMLM) R24 000 had been conducted on Thursday last week to ensure the Mlungisi sub-station was in good working condition.

Unscheduled power outages hit some residential areas on the same day, including Westbourne, Queenstown abbatoir, Mlungisi, Nonesi Mall, Top Town, Nomzamo, Melton Gardens,Victoria Park, Newvale, Popcorn Valley, Nkululekweni, Sabatha Dalindyebo and businesses around the CBD.

EMLM spokesperson Gcobani Msindwana indicated that the power failure, in some areas, was a result of a cable fault which had required an extensive repair process. He also indicated that power overload was also one of the pressing problems. Electricity was then restored in some areas on Tuesday, but still left most households and businesses in the dark.

An irate Victoria Park resident criticised the municipality for lack of transparency and poor service, indicating that the area had experienced power cuts every evening for a week. The municipality is inconsiderate and the services are very bad. The sudden power outages are causing damage to our homes and appliances. I’m not sure if we have any recourse to claim damages.�The resident claimed that the unreliable electricity supply which often affected the area was deliberately cut due to an overload on the system as a result of illegal connections.

Border Kei Business of Chamber administrator, Adre Bartis, said the power cuts had become an irritation to businesses and residents. “Places like Victoria Park and Popcorn Valley have outages every night and there was no communication. With lack of communication people can’t prepare themselves. Items that are not budgeted for like paraffin, candles etc are not cheap and that affects a person’s monthly expenses. Those are things that the municipality needs to understand. The amount of refrigerated stock lost by businesses is not going to be paid for by the municipality. This was made clear with every crisis that the municipality had regarding power outages.”

Bartis said outages had been recurring since 2016 and a contingency plan should, by now, be in place to ensure businesses did not experience such issues.

When is the municipality going to plan to renew the infrastructure or at least upgrade some of it? Did they at least contact the various departments to get grants specifically meant for infrastructure? Generators can’t run indefinitely. We have to think out of the box. With the issue of people stealing electricity, where it is said that they are causing strain on the grid, have we thought of taking those people off the grid and putting in solar panels and solar street lights?

We are frustrating businesses to a point that they will start leaving Komani. The municipality needs to meet up with business owners and be honest about the situation. If they need assistance that needs to be highlighted properly. If the municipality is hiding information and working in silos and not for the best of this community then we are not going to survive.”

Faith Foods Supermarket owner, Hafiz Rahman, said the situation had negatively affected his business and he had lost almost R500 000 worth of stock as a result of the power outage. “I have a restaurant and a meat shop. I have two big refrigerators which I use to keep my stock. Most of the items in the refrigerator are rotten. I had to buy new generators and I spent R1 500 every day to refill them. There was no communication whatsoever.”

Responding to questions sent this week, EMLM spokesperson Gcobani Msindwana said there was a major overload problem in the VAN area, especially during winter. s a result, as of July 10, there will be a scheduled load shedding programme. Other areas cannot experience load shedding due to protection issues on transformers and pump stations that cannot be switched off. Businesses were affected by broken wires which have been repaired and power has been restored.”

Msindwana indicated that New Vale, Victoria Park, Aloe Vale and other VAN areas will experience load shedding from 5pm till 8pm ‘every second day’. He added that depending on weather patterns load shedding should cease at the end of July. Msindwana further stated that the municipality was, however, trying to devise other means of tackling the problem.

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