Christmas power plan

2012-12-24 00:00

FIVE private electrical companies have been contracted by Msunduzi Municipality to keep the power switched on in Pietermaritzburg this Christmas.

Four will be on stand-by to respond to any outages, which blighted festivities last year in Mountain Rise and Sobantu.

The year before that, Wembley residents were left contemplating cold turkey when their power went out.

Msunduzi municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi promised he would be close by to attend to any “service delivery issues”, particularly blackouts.

Nkosi said the city had hired the five electrical companies to add to its capacity.

Four of these are on stand-by to deal with possible outages and the fifth will focus on streetlights.

“We are also hoping that we don’t have any major thunderstorms during this week,” he said.

Nkosi said Msunduzi has been involved in “crisis management” to deal with the electricity outages caused by aging infrastructure, as well as the weather.

“Next year, we will implement our long-term programme, and we are going to start our planning early,” he said.

This was echoed by the mayor, Chris Ndlela, who said they are going to make sure things improve in the city in 2013.

The backup plan to keep the electricity flowing was welcomed by South African Minority Rights Equality Movement’s Ashin Singh, who lives in Raisethorpe.

“Three weeks ago there was a power failure in Darjeeling Heights, where I live. It took the municipality 24 hours to get someone out there to have a look at it. They just don’t have the capacity to deal with these blackouts themselves. It’s a good thing they’ve got private contractors to be on stand-by should there be a power failure.”

For retailers, other problems abound, with the sluggish economy forcing shoppers to tighten their belts.

And the jolly abandon of three years ago, before recession struck the globe, looks a distant memory.

Chief executive officer (CEO) of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business, Melanie Veness, said the retail industry was getting a “mixed response” this festive season.

“Some businesses are down on last season, others say they are up or doing fairly well, but none as well as 2009, which was a bumper year for retail.”

Jewellers in particular have been taking a hit in the past three months, said Veness.

But on the other side of the coin, small arts and crafts businesses in the Midlands reported to her yesterday that they were prospering this year, offering hope it was indicative of a trend to “buy local”.

Veness added some of the Midlands retailers reported having sold high-priced items to overseas buyers, including “quite a few” Australian visitors.

“I think that the [local] economy is very tight and many companies could not pay their employees a thirteenth cheque,” she said.

“Generally, I assume people are looking to buy more reasonably priced items as gifts.”

The mixed feelings among traders was confirmed by The Witness during a walk around some of the shopping centres.

Despite this, turkeys and gammon continued to sell “like hot cakes”, said manager of Woolworths Food at Cascades, Philip Ndawonde.

He said they sold out two days ago and hoped to restock today for the last-minute rush.

Food sales were “fantastic” and were up by around 10% on last year.

“People want to eat well this Christmas, there’s no doubt about it,” he said.

Restaurant owners at the shopping centre also reported being well supported.

At Liberty Mall, which was buzzing with activity yesterday, a “Santa Claus” said the number of children who had entrusted him with their Christmas “wish lists” rose from an average of around 80 a day to 175 by mid-afternoon.

And Mayuris Jewellers said they did “much better” than last year, and were surprised by the report that other jewellers had not done well.

Kay Makan’s Tara Govind, however, said sales “could be better”.

Ndlela wished everyone a merry and prosperous holiday season, and singled out the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business and the wider business community for their “unconditional support” in the face of some difficult times.

• ingrido@witness.co.za

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