Busi­ness own­ers blast City

Call for Msun­duzi to save ‘de­cay­ing’ cap­i­tal

The Witness - - FRONT PAGE - KAILENE PILLAY • kailene.pillay@wit­ness.co.za

BUSI­NESS own­ers are call­ing for po­lit­i­cal back­ing and ur­gent ac­tion in the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s “elab­o­rate” plans to up­grade the city’s age­ing elec­tric­ity grid.

Af­ter lis­ten­ing at­ten­tively to a pre­sen­ta­tion at the Pi­eter­mar­itzburg of Cham­ber of Busi­ness (PCB) yes­ter­day, busi­ness own­ers ex­pressed their frus­tra­tions at the fail­ing mu­nic­i­pal ser­vices in the city.

Harry Shaw, of lo­cal busi­ness Shaw and Wall, said that the “al­most non­ex­is­tent” mu­nic­i­pal ser­vices are driv­ing in­vestors to look else­where.

He said that busi­nesses mov­ing out of the city and new in­vestors over­look­ing the cap­i­tal city were signs of a “dy­ing and de­cay­ing” town.

“You need to pass this strong mes­sage on to the politi­cians and those in power,” Shaw told Bren­den Siv­parsad, who was con­duct­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion.

Siv­parsad, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s act­ing gen­eral man­ager for in­fra­struc­ture, pre­sented a multi­mil­lion rand plan that de­tails how the City in­tends to up­grade the elec­tric­ity grid and re­duce the num­ber of power out­ages.

Siv­parsad said his de­part­ment is re­quest­ing that R100 mil­lion to be made avail­able im­me­di­ately for th­ese upgrades. He said this would be the start of a R450­mil­lion project that would span over five years.

But busi­ness own­ers were not as ac­cept­ing of the plan, as many said they “have heard it all be­fore”.

Some said they heard a sim­i­lar plan eight years ago and were still wait­ing for the upgrades to take place.

Rob Mait­land­Ste­wart from Watt Projects said he was grate­ful to Siv­parsad for mak­ing time to ad­dress busi­ness own­ers, but the “grand plan” was only good on pa­per. “Some­thing needs to be done now,” he said.

Hil­ton res­i­dent and busi­ness­man Mait­land­Ste­wart said that the elec­tric­ity in­fra­struc­ture in Hil­ton could not sup­port it­self be­cause when there is a fault on one cable then another cable trips, leav­ing the en­tire area with­out power.

Sup­port­ing Mait­land­Ste­wart’s call for im­me­di­ate ac­tion, mem­bers of the Hil­ton Ratepay­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (HRA) echoed his sen­ti­ments.

“We un­der­stand that there are proc­

“We need the mayor, the mu­nic­i­pal man­ager and those gen­eral man­agers here in th­ese meet­ings with us. The frus­tra­tions are high and it is cru­cial to have those de­ci­sion­mak­ers present.”

esses that need to be fol­lowed and funds that need to be al­lo­cated and sourced and all that, but we are fed up. This has gone on for far too long and we need ac­tion as soon as pos­si­ble,” said John Hol­i­day of the HRA.

Se­nior HR man­ager for GUD Hold­ings Raj Seeparsad called on the City’s top brass to at­tend meet­ings with busi­ness own­ers and res­i­dents.

He said that con­stant meet­ings and updates, such as yes­ter­day’s gath­er­ing, were “ex­cel­lent to have”, but there was a des­per­ate need to have the City’s ex­ec­u­tives present.

“It is all well and good to tell Bren­den what we are feel­ing and how it is af­fect­ing our busi­nesses but, as he said, he will have to take this back to who­ever and then go via the port­fo­lio com­mit­tees, ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee and then full coun­cil.

“We need the mayor, the mu­nic­i­pal man­ager and those gen­eral man­agers here in th­ese meet­ings with us. The frus­tra­tions are high and it is cru­cial to have those de­ci­sion­mak­ers present,” Seeparsad said.

PCB CEO Me­lanie Ve­ness agreed that fail­ure to pro­vide ba­sic mu­nic­i­pal ser­vices would re­sult in busi­ness and in­vestors tak­ing their money and time else­where in the prov­ince.

“This is mas­sively im­por­tant in at­tract­ing new in­ter­ests to the city. We need to be con­sis­tent in pro­vid­ing the ba­sic ser­vices,” she said.

Siv­parsad told busi­ness own­ers that the R60 mil­lion upgrades at the North­dale sub­sta­tion were com­plete and this would re­duce the num­ber of power out­ages in the north­ern sub­urbs, in­clud­ing East­wood.

He said that the R33 mil­lion project to sta­bilise the grid in the city cen­tre was close to com­ple­tion.

“The ca­bles have been laid and it is just to do the con­nec­tions now. That is ex­pected to be done by next month,” he said.

Siv­parsad said that apart from its age­ing in­fra­struc­ture, the City’s other ma­jor is­sues in­clude the over­load­ing of the grid caused by il­le­gal con­nec­tions and van­dal­ism at sub­sta­tions.

He said that the mu­nic­i­pal­ity has hired pri­vate se­cu­rity to com­bat il­le­gal con­nec­tions and is also re­vis­it­ing the ru­ral elec­tri­fi­ca­tion pro­gramme.

“We are try­ing to find an am­i­ca­ble so­lu­tion as we can­not just go and cut peo­ple off. We have al­ready elec­tri­fied Jika Joe and Copesville and have seen the dif­fer­ence in the load­ing of the grid so we are hop­ing to do the same else­where,” he said.

He added that the mu­nic­i­pal­ity was look­ing at in­stalling CCTV cam­eras, pri­vate se­cu­rity and rapid re­sponse at “hotspots” to tackle the in­crease in van­dal­ism of mu­nic­i­pal prop­erty.

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