Plan to electrify informal townships

2012-08-03 00:00

THE city is being held hostage by the high levels of electricity theft.

Msunduzi Municipality took a resolution years ago not to put infrastructure in place in informal settlements, but the headache caused by increasing electricity theft may well force the council to go back on that decision, by looking at electrifying the informal settlements as a possible solution to curbing electricity theft and the outages it causes.

The executive committee (Exco) yesterday learnt that electricity theft was the biggest contributor to power outages in the city.

A report compiled by the deputy municipal manager for infrastructure services, Thokozani Maseko, said that while there were technical reasons for some of the outages, the theft of electricity, vandalism of infrastructure and illegal connections were the main cause of power failures experienced in Copesville, parts of Bishopstowe, Thembalihle and the Beech Road area of Willowton.

Maseko said they had beefed up security with armed response and were working with the police in the most affected areas to guard the infrastructure.

“Cable theft has financial implications because we need to replace electricity infrastructure, so this is eroding our operating budget,” he said.

He said call-outs for electricians to go to the affected areas at weekends and after hours were increasing overtime costs.

Maseko said they needed to remove all illegal connections with the assistance of municipal security and the police.

“We need to do regular patrols in high-risk areas.

“We also need to consider the employment of full-time security guards to guard the electricity infrastructure,” he said.

Maseko also recommended to Exco that electrification in the informal settlements should be considered.

The recommendation is still under discussion.

Meanwhile, Chantal Wiltwer, of Cinderella Park in Eastwood, said residents had been experiencing power outages regularly for the past two months.

Wiltwer said: “I have spent more than R200 in airtime phoning the call centre and the councillor just to find out why the electricity has been out since Tuesday, but I have not been able to get any response.”

This was frustrating because she had a 12-month-old baby and she relies on electricity.

Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Brian Zuma said that it had been very cold in the past couple of weeks and it was thought that the increased usage of stoves, kettles, heaters and geysers had overloaded the power supply system, causing the outages.

“This is because we had no technical problems in many of the affected areas,” he said.

He said power cuts in Cinderella Park were the result of cable theft.

“We appeal to the community to be patient because replacing a cable is not an easy job and can take up to two or three days.”

Areas that were affected this week were parts of Pelham (Ritchie and Alexandra roads), Willowton and Mountain Rise.

• thobani.ngqulunga@witness.co.za

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