Komani power cuts most likely here to stay

Picture: ESKOM

Bring out the candles and buy the paraffin as power cuts could be a regular occurrence in Komani for the foreseeable future.

This is according to Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality (EMLM), which says areas around town may continue to implement localised load shedding during peak hours.

Speaking to The Rep this week, EMLM spokesperson Lonwabo Kowa said a number of factors including illegal connections, increased usage, maintenance issues and loss of revenue have all added to the unreliable power supply.

Komani, Mlungisi and Ezibeleni have been experiencing regular power interruptions in recent weeks, which has raised questions among concerned residents.

On Monday a Sandringham resident went to EMLM to demand that power be restored.

Mihlali Somi said we had been without power since last week on Thursday.

“Sandringham previously shared the same substation as Nonesi Mall. Our line has now been linked with New Rest, we do not know why. This is causing us more power outages than before.”

Other areas which were affected included the army base, New Rest and Factory Road which Kowa confirmed were restored by Tuesday. These areas and Sabatha and Westbourne were in the dark as recently as Wednesday.

According to Kowa, Sandringham, Southbourne, the army base, New Rest were now connected at the Connaught Avenue substation which feeds from the Ebden Street substation.

“The line from the Nonesi Mall is for alternative supply if there are problems with the Connaught Avenue substation which offers a better supply. The line was moved away from its previous substation after the substation feeding the mall caught fire.

To ensure supply for the affected areas an alternative means had to be made,” he said.

The common thread behind the regular power interruptions, Kowa said, was due to a system overload, especially during peak hours between 6pm and 8pm.

He said one of the major contributing factors was that more houses had flats constructed in their yards.

“Some people have tampered with the municipal infrastructure by stealing electricity. There are illegal connections mainly in informal settlements. Illegal connections have contributed massively to the low revenue collection by the municipality. More than R30 million is lost through illegal connections and tampering monthly,” Kowa said.

He added that the closure of the finance offices during the lockdown had resulted in a huge drop in revenue. “While we gave out our bank account numbers with people there was less income. Most people prefer paying at the offices than using other payment methods.”

Kowa also said EMLM was having trouble keeping up with its Eskom debt as revenue collection was insufficient. However, he did not disclose any information on how much EMLM owed to Eskom, nor when the most recent payment was made.

Asked if Komani residents should expect more power interruptions this winter or if the municipality had a plan to address the problem he said EMLM was advocating for economical usage of power by businesses and households.

“We are not anticipating any outages except for normal faults that can be repaired in a short time. Overloading of the system remains a possibility and this, at times, leads to load reductions where certain areas are temporarily switched off during peak hours to avoid outages in the entire town.”

To address the power theft issue he said: “There is a monitoring team which checks and blocks accounts when there is tampering. A number of illegal connections have been disconnected by municipal officials. A permanent solution will be smart meters which will be implemented no later than this year to curb tampering.”

Report filed by Abongile Solundwana and Ntsikelelo Qoyo

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