Residents feel powerless

2015-12-08 06:00

Rondebosch East residents are still looking for answers more than 18 months after an unforeseen power surge ripped through the neighbourhood, leaving many of them without the use of their electrical appliances.

The surge in May last year damaged electrical equipment of about R100 000.

Despite having their initial complaint turned down by the City of Cape Town, residents feel they have a valid case with the City claiming that they admitted to having faulty transformers servicing the area’s electrical network.

In correspondence by the City of Cape Town in response to the initial claim by the Garlandale and Rondebosch East Residents’ Association, the City electricity department found after investigation that the cause of the surge was “unforeseen circumstances, due to the malfunction of the tap changer (part of the transformer that controls the voltage). The cables that feed the low voltage board induced current on the neutral cable, causing the lug (connector) to melt.”

The City said it could not be held liable for the interruption in service nor the damage as it felt not to have been negligent.

Ivan van der Ross, chairperson of the Association, disagrees, citing a similar case in 2009 in a letter to mayor Patricia de Lille.

“We then appealed and we weren’t happy and that too was also repudiated, so now we are sitting in no man’s land,” he says.

“Now there has been one successful case in the Western Cape. My personal feeling is that the municipality is prejudicing the Garlandale residents. In that letter I gave a synopsis of what has transpired and we are still waiting on that reply.”

Van der Ross says not being a lawyer makes it especially difficult to act on behalf of the entire group.

“The residents are still aggrieved as many of them are elderly people. We have sought legal advice, but we also need someone to sort this out, but we operate without money. Our executive guys pay for their transport, telephone calls and stationery.”

He has suggested to residents regularly at meetings to pursue their cases on their own, but Basil Diedericks, one of the residents directly affected by the surge, says this simply would not be possible.

“Many of them are elderly and are pensioners and they don’t have the money for it anyway. Is it really going to be worth it? I have to pay a lawyer R10 000, but my claim is only for R1000, so the balance is not proportionate.”

Van der Ross says as a result, he and the residents he represents are at their wits’ end as to how to get justice.

“The municipality is just telling us: ‘Look, you’re not happy, we’ll see you in court.’ But court is money and they use ratepayers’ money to defend themselves. So we are sitting in this situation where we have to resort to the newspapers and other agencies.”

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