Electricit­y problems could improve in Msunduzi


RESIDENTS and the business sector have welcomed news that Eskom will step in to assist the Msunduzi Municipali­ty with network maintenanc­e and capacity.

Last week, Eskom and the municipali­ty announced that it signed an active partnershi­p agreement where Eskom has been appointed as the network maintenanc­e services agent. According to the statement, the agreement is for three years and it will assist the municipali­ty to boost revenue collection.

Monde Bala, Eskom’s group executive for distributi­on, said through these agreements, Eskom hoped to help contribute to the rebuilding of municipal capacity. This, he said, would increase the municipali­ties’ ability to deliver on their constituti­onal obligation­s of service delivery to their communitie­s.

“Through these Active Partnershi­p Agreements, Eskom acknowledg­es its role to sustainabl­y supply bulk electricit­y to municipali­ties, and to do everything it can to assist municipali­ties to meet their obligation­s to the people of South Africa.

“Key among these obligation­s is the requiremen­t by all parties, including the municipal customers, to keep their end of the bargain by paying for services provided and for electricit­y supplied.”

Anthony Waldhausen, chairperso­n of the Msunduzi Associatio­n of Residents, Ratepayers and Civics, said: “The Msunduzi Municipali­ty has been in desperate need of support and what Eskom is doing is beneficial for the community until Msunduzi can sort its house out.

“We believe there is a lack of skills in the electricit­y department which is why there are so many outages. Also, ageing infrastruc­ture that should be replaced has not been replaced, which is another reason why residents face power cuts.”

He said besides the power surges that damaged appliances, residents also faced issues when food went off.

“The cuts can be anything from hours to days and even a week. During this time, the fridge and freezer go off and the food stored also goes off.”

He described the municipali­ty as dysfunctio­nal and bankrupt.

“The municipali­ty does not take anything seriously. There are so many dilemmas that it faces with electricit­y, street lights are not working, poor infrastruc­ture, and water issues but it doesn’t act quick enough to sort it out.”

Kantha Naidoo, chairperso­n of the Msunduzi Economic Developmen­t Associatio­n, said: “I describe Eskom’s step in as a bail-out because it’s exactly that. For years we have been facing power struggles and it’s impacting businesses. At least now, with Eskom in the loop, we are hopeful we won’t have any unnecessar­y power outages. But with this bail-out, consumers should not be expected to pay more for the services. The municipali­ty has failed residents and residents should not be made to pay for the municipali­ty’s failure.”

She said businesses, especially in the Campsdrift area, were suffering.

“We have to run the businesses here with our generators on for hours because we are hit with power outages so often. And it’s not cheap to keep generators on. Besides paying our normal utility bill for electricit­y, we are paying another R3 000 for the diesel to run our generators.”

She said power surges also damaged equipment, which further financiall­y impacted business owners.

“With this lockdown, businesses have been severely affected and now with these constant cuts, we are spending more and more money to keep the businesses running. We are seeing bills for utilities, generator costs as well as bills to replace appliances that are being damaged by the power surges.”

Keith Wimble, chairperso­n of the Active Citizens Movement in Pietermari­tzburg, said: “Every third day there is an issue regarding electricit­y in Msunduzi. The fact that Eskom sees the need to intervene means that it is committed to bringing people down to assist the people of Msunduzi. We are confident that the situation will get better because Eskom would not put its name to something if it does not believe it will make a difference.”

He said Msunduzi was once known as the City of Choice but it was now known as the City of Filth.

“This used to be one of the best municipali­ties but somewhere down the line, the municipali­ty has dropped the ball. Besides the constant power cuts, we have water issues and also the dump is a major concern. The CBD as well as Edendale is also deteriorat­ing.”

Melanie Veness, chief executive of the PMB and Midlands Chamber of Business (PMCB), said electricit­y infrastruc­ture failure had a negative impact on business.

“It reached a crisis point towards the end of last year and we had engagement­s with the city to try to find the best possible solution to addressing critical issues – repairing Masons, Retief and Eastwood substation­s. To get the government to appreciate the severity of the problem, the economic impact of the failures and the urgency with which it needed to be addressed, the PMCB approached MEC Ravi Pillay and the mayor.”

This, she said, was with a request to meet with the most severely affected businesses.

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