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.