2009-03-26 00:00

Once again a significant portion of Pietermaritzburg has experienced a breakdown in the supply of electricity. It has been described by Andrew Layman of the city's Chamber of Business as "devastating" in its effects. This applies to homeowners, as well as to commercial enterprises.

The breakdown has fuelled fresh anxiety about serious problems with this and other infrastructural aspects of the municipality. This is justified by the comment by Phil Mashoko, deputy municipal manager for infrastructure services, to the effect that the current restoration of supply is operating at 50% risk, meaning that if it collapses again there is nothing else to lean on as a standby.

It is becoming increasingly clear that piecemeal repairs are no real solution. What is needed is a major overhaul and renewal in a fundamental way. The extension of services to areas which have not been provided for previously - a policy highly commendable in itself - has occurred while existing ageing facilities have been badly neglected. The result is a crazy mixture of new provision alongside major degradation.

The Msunduzi Municipality has been experiencing at a micro level what the nation as a whole has discovered with Eskom. At least with Eskom, while the same kind of piecemeal tinkering continues, there is a longer-term plan in place for additional facilities that will improve and stabilise supply. The local scene cries out for a similar plan, and the funding and human expertise for it need to be urgently found.

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