Electrician dies fixing wire

2009-03-26 00:00

AN allegedly exhausted electrician was electrocuted while working on a faulty power line in Pietermaritzburg yesterday morning. Msunduzi Municipality electrician Bonginkosi Miya (35) died at the top of an electricity pole at the corner of Newholmes Way and Deccan Road in Northdale.

Shock and disbelief gripped Miya's colleagues, motorists and residents in the area. His colleagues broke down in tears as his body was taken down from the top of the ladder. Two assistants who were with Miya when the accident happened were led away for trauma counselling. Junior electricians who arrived at the scene said Miya was a senior worker and his electrocution has increased their fears of doing their jobs.

"He was one of the most experienced electricians here; he always advised us to be careful and he never took chances," one of his colleagues said. "We will work because we need money, but it's at a high cost." None of the electricians who arrived on the scene said they understood how Miya was electrocuted.

Questions were asked about what safety precautions were taken and Miya's fitness to work after he had put in long hours. It is alleged that he had been on duty for more than 24 hours.

According to sources in the electricity department, Miya had been on normal duty since 6 am on Tuesday. "At the time he died he had been on stand-by since Tuesday," a source told The Witness.

Police spokesman Senior Superintendent Henry Budhram said Miya died at about 6.45 am yesterday.

According to the source, Miya had asked to be relieved just before he went to do the job that killed him. Tuesday night's stormy weather led to several power outages being reported to the municipality and Miya might have been up the whole night, said the source.

The South African Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) will conduct its own investigation to determine the cause of the accident. Samwu spokesman Garnet Mlete said the accident happened while there are outstanding issues that the municipality has failed to address.

"We have a big problem with the municipality. We work under extremely dangerous situations, but we do not receive danger allowances. We also want the municipality to address the issue of scarce skills, because our trade is a scarce skill." Mlete said another concern is the competence of privately contracted companies.

Above: A traumatised Bongkos Zondi, who worked with the electrician who was electrocuted while repairing a faulty cable. Zondi said yesterday he heard the man scream and saw him shaking on top of the pole.

Msunduzi Municipality's deputy manager for infrastructure services, Phil Mashoko, could not provide details about the accident, but promised a full report when the matter had been investigated.

Residents in the area said a storm caused the power outage the previous night. Miya had climbed to the top of the ladder and had started working on the faulty lines. His toolbag was left hanging on the top of the ladder and a few wires were hanging on the cables. Police have opened an inquest docket.

sandilez@witness.co.za

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