Fix the town

Cri­sis group set to work with coun­cil

The Rep - - FRONT PAGE - BHONGO JA­COB

ACRISIS 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 R500 000. 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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