City shifts power funds

2017-08-15 13:41
Community activist Jay Jugwanth stands under one of the electricity pylons near the Northdale power station on Monday. Msunduzi Municipality has reallocated R2 million — meant for upgrade of two sub-stations — to upgrade the municipal  offices.

Community activist Jay Jugwanth stands under one of the electricity pylons near the Northdale power station on Monday. Msunduzi Municipality has reallocated R2 million — meant for upgrade of two sub-stations — to upgrade the municipal offices. (Ian Carbutt)

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Msunduzi Municipality has re-allocated over R2 million meant for the maintenance of two sub-stations and various sports fields in the city to upgrade council administration buildings.

A recent full council meeting retrospectively approved the reallocation of maintenance and capital council funds for the 2016/17 financial year.

The money meant for the maintenance of the two power stations has been used to upgrade municipal offices, the maintenance of the municipal manager’s office, a lights upgrade at Professor Nyembezi Building and for the cooling tower at AS Chetty Building.

The expenditure on the four projects totalled R2,2 million.

The municipality, which is in the midst of an electricity crisis, has been lambasted for shifting these funds from the maintenance of sub-stations.

DA caucus leader Sibongiseni Majola said he could not understand why the council was taking away money from the maintenance of the ageing electricity infrastructure, which has been blamed for some of the ongoing power outages experienced in parts of the city. “The rationale behind it is not clear. Looking at the challenges regarding electricity, one would assume that priority would be given to projects that are related to electricity. They have reduced the money instead of putting in more money,” he said.

Majola said he could not understand why the item was only brought to council this month when the 2016/17 financial year was over. “In January, the council missed a good opportunity to reallocate these funds during the Mid-Term Budget Adjustment, but nobody brought it to council.”

Ross Strachan, whose Ward 26 has been affected by the reallocation of funds meant for maintenance of a local sub-station, said the reallocation will have negative effect on basic service delivery and the safety of the city’s infrastructural assets.

“Once again it is service delivery that takes a back seat while the priority shift is completely irresponsible. On the weekend of July 30 most of the city experienced a sudden power outage after a monkey jumped into the sub-station at Retief St Primary, which was completely overgrown and run down, which then caused the short on the 33KV breaker and a fault trip.” He added most of the outages in the city are due to vandalism, old infrastructure or lack of maintenance.

Community activist Jay Jugwanth said he had been left flabbergasted by the move. “To move R2 million from the infrastructure budget to upgrade the municipal manager’s office is downright contempt for the ratepayers of the city. The ANC-led municipality carps about collecting extra charges from us and ring fencing that money for infrastructure development and, with total disregard for the state of electricity and water, Msunduzi now wants to exploit valuable funds.

“This R2 million can be used to address urgent infrastructure that is in need of upgrading like renewing cables that have been damaged over the years.

“The recent decisions by the municipality echo its disregard to prioritise service delivery. R30 million to a professional football club and now R2 million for an upgrade on municipal offices is not on; for years the same municipality pleads there is no money to upgrade swimming pools and significantly no money to purchase chlorine for the public pools. It is very conspicuous that managing a municipality is outside the ANC-led municipality’s depth. I will be writing to Nersa about this abuse of our money,” he said.

Attempts to get comment from municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha since last week were unsuccessful. She did not respond to a media query, SMS query and her phone rang unanswered.

Msunduzi may lose licence to sell electricity

Msunduzi Municipality is set to meet the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) on Tuesday over the power crisis being experienced in the city.

Nersa confirmed that over 50 Msunduzi residents had written to the energy regulator asking for a review of the city’s electricity licence.

The complaints were lodged after the lights went out for four days in Hilton and Sweetwaters earlier this year.

Nersa spokesperson Charles Hlebela confirmed today’s meeting, but could not be drawn to comment further. “Affected customers will be advised of progress in this regard.”

The City faces the possibility of a fine or having its licence withdrawn should it be found that it violated its licence conditions.

DA caucus leader Sibongiseni Majola warned that the withdrawal of the licence would hit the City’s revenue hard. “That would mean Msunduzi would be R2 billion down in terms of revenue collection. That R2 billion would automatically become the revenue of a private company.

“The withdrawal of the licence would mean the municipality will not be able to respond to burst pipes, potholes, the provision of housing and job creation,” he said.

Municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha did not respond to queries sent to her and her phone rang unanswered.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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