‘Why all the silence?’

2017-06-26 10:51
Residents living in Sweetwaters took to the streets last week when an electricity crisis hit Msunduzi.

Residents living in Sweetwaters took to the streets last week when an electricity crisis hit Msunduzi. (Ian Carbutt)

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If it was a matter of just switching the lights back on, why were suburbs left without electricity in the bitter cold for more than three days?

Witness Warriors has been inundated with calls, messages and e-mails from frustrated residents who were left without electricity.

Residents felt abandoned as they received no word from the municipality on how the crisis was being managed and what they could expect.

Many said the municipal call centre lines just rang endlessly, leaving fuming residents to listen to an automated message telling them that the municipality was aware of the power outages.

Is an automated message enough during a time of crisis? No, but that was the only form of communication residents, and journalists, were left with.

The usually reachable Msunduzi mayor Themba Njilo did not take any calls from Witness Warriors last week, the not-so-reachable City manager Sizwe Hadebe remained quiet, while it proved extremely difficult to get comment from municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha.

The City eventually came to the party late last week, saying they were trying “everything possible” to get power restored but did not elaborate on the status of the electricity strike and acts of sabotage by those participating in the illegal strike.

After three days of darkness, panic and mayhem, we heard the City had hired private contractors to switch the power back on.

Residents told Witness Warriors the last week proved that management in the City structures has failed and they called for the municipality to be placed under administration.

“What we really do not understand is the silence from the municipality.

“If there is a strike then tell us there is a strike and if they are in talks with the striking workers then tell us what is happening in those talks and what the progress is,” said one resident.

He said the silence was the “scariest”.

“It was as if they did not know what they were doing.

“If they could not even send a simple message to our councillors, what were they doing?

“The city is no longer on the brink of collapse. We have collapsed and there seems to be no one interested enough to bring Pietermaritzburg back to its glory days,” he said.

Readers asked why the “higher powers” did not step in to give the municipality the direction it seemed to need in a time of crisis. “Have we just been forgotten and left to die under this municipality?” asked one resident.

Sweetwaters residents protested and blocked the roads with burning tyres and debris after they were left without power for days on end.

Tensions rose in the area as the ward councillor for Sweetwaters is municipal Speaker and top ANC cadre Jabu Ngubo.

“We don’t have a councillor because she is more interested in being the speaker. She does not even attend community meetings or understand the plight of our residents here,” said one of the angry protesters.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  witness warrior

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