Rage over unresolved power cuts in Komani

Constant power outages affecting individuals and business operations have made residents around Komani and in outlying areas livid.

With the winter approaching, recent reports of intermittent electricity cuts which last for weeks due to reported cable faults, overloads and illegal connections have caused frustration and problems.

Border-Kei Chamber of Business administrator Adre Bartis said the outages dated back to 2015, with countless protests over poor electricity infrastructure. “There are still no systems in place to prevent the outages. We fully understand that the infrastructure is old, but there were supposed to be measures in place to change the infrastructure. We are currently having pieces of cables replaced instead of full ones.

On their Facebook page, Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality (EMLM) recently announced a cable fault in the Top Town, Victoria Park, Aloevale, Newvale and Sabata Dalindyebo areas, noting that material had been sourced to repair Top Town and testing teams dispatched to other areas for tests.

“By now the municipality should know what size cables are used in which areas. It is frustrating that we have to open an area to see what size the cable is. With all these outages in the same areas we should by now know the type of cable and the size required. Why is the specification not given to local suppliers so they can stock up and ensure we have these cables in place and prioritise repairing the testing machine which has been broken for a long time, instead of using external providers in a cash-strapped municipality? Not all businesses can afford generators, fuel has gone up and diesel is not cheap. It is necessary for the municipality to communicate and update people with a clear breakdown.”

Ward 10 DA councillor Tokkie Deysel spoke on the massive impact that these outages constitute. “With the Covid-19 situation, a lot of people are working from home. We have students, pupils who have to do their tasks, we have people doing job interviews and virtual meetings that are being conducted, farmers who cannot pump water for their animals, not to mention the damage to appliances because the electricity goes on and off. The issue is that there is no maintenance taking place. Service providers are not being paid by the municipality. We must prioritise service delivery. Another challenge is that we only have one vehicle to do repairs for various areas. Staff have no tools they need to do the work. It is about leadership, management and consequence management.

Speaking to The Rep this week, a community member in Sabatha Dalindyebo who asked to remain anonymous said the amount of spoiled food due to the outages was concerning. “When I returned from church on Saturday evening, there was no electricity and I thought it was load shedding, but there was still no power the following morning. I heard there were some technicians on Tuesday around 12pm. Electricity apparently came back for about three hours and it was gone again. We use cold water to bath in the morning and go to work on a freezing day. We have to throw away food from the fridge because of this. I have to buy paraffin every day to cook with the little money I have. It is annoying because this only affects a few houses in my area,” she said.

Ezibeleni resident Funeka Mbityana Mlalandle said power outages were a daily occurrence in KwaThemba, indicating that the electricity outages experienced this week could cause serious damage to appliances.

The Rep reported (‘Smart meters get a go date for roll out,’ April 2) that Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality mayor Luleka Gubula had said the installation of smart electricity meter boxes would start in June, a project that would help with the municipality’s financial recovery plan. “Meter boxes that have been tampered with and faulty and incompatible ones will be replaced and the new system will start in June. Areas such as Ezibeleni, where some people used electricity carelessly and were prone to regular power outages would see an improved difference when the smart meters had been installed,” she said.

When asked whether the installation process had begun, EMLM spokesperson Lonwabo Kowa said a service provider is currently running metre audits. Large power users have been prioritised and after completing that process, focus will turn to small businesses and residents. So far there have been no hiccups in the project. Outages have mainly been caused by electricity system overload. When it is very cold businesses and residences consume a lot of power using various appliances like heaters, stoves and air conditioners to keep warm. Additionally, those who are illegally connected also take a huge chunk of the electricity. The strain on the system has caused a number of damages on transformers and cables. We need residents and businesses to use alternative energy sources when it is cold to avoid overloading.