‘WE WILL REPAIR IT’
... says EMLM mayor as power problems escalate
WITH the electricity supply network of the Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality (EMLM) on the verge of collapse, the municipality is finalising a business plan to ensure access to funds set aside by the provincial treasury to deal with the challenges plaguing the local authority.
The Rep reported (“Good news as government prioritises Komani power”, March 10) that Treasury MEC Sakhumzi Somyo made special mention of EMLM while tabling the provincial budget in February.
Somyo said R80.9-million had been allocated to the cooperative governance and traditional affairs department as a short-term intervention for the electrification programme in targeted rural communities.
“Furthermore, an assessment is under way in Komani under EMLM to identify the magnitude of the electricity challenges that are hampering business operations,” Somyo said.
Addressing a media briefing recently, EMLM executive mayor Lindiwe Gunuza Nkwentsha said the local authority would need R26-million to implement urgent projects that had been identified to resolve current power supply problems.
She said electricity outages constituted a huge problem for the municipality and affected everyone in the area.
A meeting had been called between the municipal management and electricians to consider such challenges.
These problems, she said, included the network that had not been maintained for the past 12 years.
“Staff have only been doing fault repairs. After the amalgamation there were no additional staff or budget to deal with the electricity. We do not have an electrical engineer but we have advertised the post in national newspapers,” she said.
The municipality had also sourced quotations from service providers for the maintenance of the electrical infrastructure.
“We would need to appoint a qualified company to have a maintenance contract for three to five years,” she said, adding that other municipalities were doing this.
Acting municipal manager Siyabonga Nkonki, Gunuza Nkwentsha said, had gone to KSD Local Municipality and Buffalo City Metro for bench-marking on how to deal with the electricity supply challenges.
“We engaged our budget and treasury to get internal funds and redirect them to sort out the electricity crisis. We will give more capacity to employees at technical services and add more vehicles.”
She confirmed that there was a risk of electrocutions as mini substations were left standing open, which could lead to lawsuits.
“The network at present is on the point of collapse. We have a lack of staff capacity to do maintenance. We also need to appoint a company that can provide a communication channel for staff and customers. We would also need to enable field workers to log cases on behalf of residents,” she said, adding that such a system would then automatically assign cases to relevant departments, with residents able to track the progress of their cases via the website or a mobile app.
The issue of illegal connections and the impact thereof on the electricity supply network was also receiving serious attention.
Transgressors would be met with the might of the law, she warned.
Gunuza Nkwentsha said there had been accusations that
municipal employees had also been involved in illegal connections.
“We are going to take unpopular decisions going forward to deal decisively with the matter. We will start off by having an awareness campaign and by encouraging people with illegal connections to come forward so we can find a solution.”
She said the municipality would have to “forgive” those who voluntarily came forward but they would have to buy their own electrical boxes.
“We want to deal with this crisis. We also want to apologise to our communities for the crisis we find ourselves in.”
She said there would be a communication plan to inform the public of impending outages.
“We appreciate the relationship we have with the local media and that you are able to come when we call so we can address issues facing our communities. We must change the way people see this municipality and we must work together to build it.”
A notice elsewhere in this issue warns of a cut to Ezibeleni on Sunday, from 7am to 5pm “in preparation for the connection of the new transformer to existing substations”.
IN DISREPAIR: An electrical substation near Frontier Hospital
GIVING DIRECTION: Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality executive mayor Lindiwe Gunuza Nkwentsha said the municipality was dealing with the electricity challenges during a press briefing last Thursday