City power threatened

2014-11-07 00:00

THE actions of an illegal dumper have left Maritzburg teetering on the brink of disaster with half the city’s power under threat of being switched off.

Msunduzi electricians were racing against time late yesterday to salvage the situation.

On Wednesday afternoon, a truck allegedly belonging to Natal Asphalters dumped rubble at an illegal dump site in Promed Road, half a kilometre away from the New England landfill site.

As the tipper went up, it struck and broke a 132 kV cable, one of the main feeds from Eskom bringing power to the city. Witnesses say the cable came down and hit the truck, causing the ­tyres to burst into flames. It also caused other fires in the area.

Nhlalayenza Khumalo said: “I heard fireworks-like sounds and thought the truck was on fire. Then I saw the broken cables. The cable swerved like a snake past me before hitting the tyres which burst into flames,” he said.

Khumalo said the driver got out of the vehicle and started running. “You could see he was scared. I was in shock and could not move. Had the cable hit me, I would be dead,” he said.

Zama Gumede described the cable as “a flaming snake”. “I fell to the ground so that it wouldn’t hit me, and ran for my life when I could.”

Yesterday morning the Msunduzi Electricity Department was out in full force at the site. Staff shook their heads in despair at the damage and what it would cost the city. They said they had been pulled off from other jobs. A technician said they should have been carrying out much needed maintenance work, instead of fixing up the mess caused by somebody’s illegal actions.

The Electricity Head and Acting deputy municipal manager for infrastructure, Sabatha Nomnganga, said they had switched all the power to an alternate line to ensure that all suburbs received electricity.

“This is an extremely high-risk situation. If this single feed gets compromised, then half the city will be without electricity,” he said.

According to Nomnganga, they were racing against time to fix the problem and there were concerns over whether they had enough cable to do the repair.

They would also have to call in Eskom, which would cost the city money.

Nomnganga estimated that the repairs could cost close to R1 million, money that the city could ill afford as much more was needed to replace the ageing infrastructure.

“This makes us very angry as we are working hard at stabilising the city’s power supply and then something like this happens,” he said.

Mayor Chris Ndlela was furious about the incident and the ‘intolerable’ levels of illegal dumping in the city.

“It is not the poor, it is people with cars and businesses with trucks who can drive to remote parts of the city and dump their rubbish,” he said.

“We are going to investigate this matter throughly and ensure that the full might of the law is brought to bear on the culprits. We will not only look at criminal action, but civil action as well. This involves ratepayers’ money that has to be spent on fixing a problem that should not have happened in the first place,” Ndlela added.

He said it was worrying that illegal dumping took place so close to the landfill site. He had often been told that the scourge of illegal dumping was because people did not want to pay the weighbridge fees at the landfill site.

Ndlela previously referred to the culture of non-payment as a symptom of the lawlessness in the city.


Kuben Padayachee of Natal Asphalters said they were investigating the incident.

Truck driver Amos Sinethe said he had been heading for the legal dumpsite when men who appeared to be working at the Promed Road plot signalled to him to dump there.

“I wasn’t aware of the powerlines overhead. When the powerlines broke, the truck was electrocuted and the front and back wheels and sump burst,” Sinethe said.

He later returned to the truck, moved it to the road and replaced the tyres and drove away.

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