Power fury

The Rep - - FRONT PAGE - ANDISA BONANI

FU­RI­OUS Ward 13 com­mu­nity mem­bers in New­vale burnt tyres in protest against power out­ages while in nearby Tarkas­tad, res­i­dents took to the streets to fix an elec­tri­cal ca­ble them­selves.

Both ar­eas fall un­der the Enoch Mgi­jima Lo­cal Mu­nic­i­pal­ity which was formed last year as an amal­ga­ma­tion of the for­mer Lukhanji, Tsol­wana and Nk­wanca mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

On Tues­day, smoke wafted in the air above New­vale as res­i­dents protested over a three-week power out­age. Po­lice and fire­fight­ers were on the scene while wait­ing for a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the mu­nic­i­pal­ity to ad­dress the crowd of about 60 peo­ple.

Com­mu­nity mem­bers said they had been wait­ing since 7am on Tues­day for an up­date since com­plain­ing to the mu­nic­i­pal­ity via ward coun­cil­lor Ongama Adon­isi, who had al­legedly not ar­rived to give them feed­back.

Res­i­dent Ulakhe Siyaya said, “We will not stop protest­ing and burn­ing these tyres un­til we have elec­tric­ity – we will sleep here if we have to. Our chil­dren have to wash with cold wa­ter be­fore go­ing to school.”

Ward 17 coun­cil­lor Mnce­disi Mbengo ar­rived on the scene and phoned the tech­ni­cal ser­vices depart­ment.

“We were voted for by the peo­ple and there­fore it is our duty as coun­cil­lors to serve them. See­ing peo­ple protest­ing about a ba­sic need, means there is some­thing wrong and that we are fail­ing our peo­ple.”

Nom­pumelelo Lusu said power out­ages were not new to the ward and that the is­sues had been re­ported to EMLM ex­ec­u­tive mayor Lindiwe Gunuza-Nk­wentsha in May.

“We waited for weeks but no one came to help us be­cause the mu­nic­i­pal work­ers were on strike. A month later, two cir­cuit break­ers were in­stalled but since there are too many of us who con­nect to it, it burnt out three weeks ago and we have been liv­ing in the dark ever since.”

Ward com­mit­tee mem­ber Welile Oliphant said the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s tech­ni­cal ser­vices per­son­nel ar­rived last week with an old and rusty cir­cuit breaker which started trip­ping just af­ter it was in­stalled.

“They took an old cir­cuit breaker which con­tin­ues to trip. We were promised new pre­paid elec­tric­ity boards a long time ago and we are still wait­ing.”

Some com­mu­nity mem­bers were com­plain­ing that the in­ter­rupted power sup­ply was dam­ag­ing elec­tric ap­pli­ances and that there were ru­mours of il­le­gal elec­tric­ity con­nec­tions. By the time The Rep left, no other mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials or coun­cil­lors had ar­rived.

Oliphant con­firmed on Wed­nes­day that a mu­nic­i­pal ve­hi­cle ar­rived late on Tues­day and res­i­dents were told that two cir­cuit break­ers would be pro­vided.

“They promised to come back say­ing we would not sleep with­out elec­tric­ity, but they did not. We slept again with­out power. We

knew we were be­ing lied to be­cause we were once told that cir­cuit break­ers needed to be or­dered – the mu­nic­i­pal­ity does not have them in stor­age.”

The protests con­tin­ued dur­ing Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon as power had not been re­stored.

Adon­isi, re­spond­ing tele­phon­i­cally yes­ter­day, said he was at the tech­ni­cal ser­vices of­fices. While the cir­cuit breaker seemed to be ready, some other equip­ment was needed, but it was hoped that the elec­tri­cians would be on their way to restore the power yes­ter­day.

In nearby Tarkas­tad (which used to fall un­der Tsol­wana), res­i­dents out­raged by a lack of in­ter­ven­tion in a power out­age which had lasted since Thurs­day, fixed a ca­ble them­selves on Satur­day, restor­ing elec­tric­ity to five homes.

Afrifo­rum vice-pres­i­dent Char­maine Jonk said the town was plagued by power out­ages and that de­spite re­quests for meet­ings with EMLM, these had not ma­te­ri­alised.

Last Thurs­day, a con­struc­tion com­pany work­ing on a road in the town al­legedly dam­aged a ca­ble, plung­ing five house­holds into dark­ness. When there had been no re­sponse from EMLM by Satur­day, res­i­dents joined ef­forts with an EMLM em­ployee who does not have the nec­es­sary equip­ment, to re­pair the ca­ble them­selves, she said.

In ad­di­tion, the town’s high school had been with­out power since last Mon­day af­ter a cir­cuit breaker burnt out. The school’s hos­tel had lost food val­ued at R33 000 and the elec­tri­cal ap­pli­ances were de­stroyed. The power was re­stored on Satur­day morn­ing with the aid of com­mu­nity mem­bers.

Prin­ci­pal Ger­hard Kitch­ing told the Daily Dis­patch that he had re­ported re­cur­ring power prob­lems to EMLM but to no avail.

Jonk said res­i­dents of the town were con­sid­er­ing form­ing a Con­cerned Com­mu­nity Fo­rum with rep­re­sen­ta­tion of all towns in the Chris Hani Dis­trict to raise is­sues of con­cern with the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

Queries were sent to the EMLM com­mu­ni­ca­tions sec­tion but no re­sponse was re­ceived.

STILL A SAD SIGHT: The vir­tu­ally empty Bonkolo Dam, cap­tured via drone photos pro­vided by Leon An­nan­dale of Ko­mani, ben­e­fited from a stream of wa­ter which poured into the dam af­ter al­most 100mm of rain ear­lier this month

Pic­ture: ANDISA BONANI

LIV­ING IN THE DARK: New­vale res­i­dents burn tyres in protest against re­cur­ring power out­ages

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