City pulls plug on power staff’s late night shifts

2012-07-18 00:00

THE PLUG has been pulled on the city’s electricity repair staff working through the night, with residents now fearing their blackout woes will become even worse.

Staff at the electricity department have been instructed not to work after 11 pm, municipal sources told The Witness.

These sources cannot be named as they are not authorised to speak to the media.

Residents who experience power outages either late afternoon or at night, may well have to wait until the next day or even longer, depending on how far down their suburb features on the repair list.

With the number of outages experienced in Pietermaritzburg, some residents have expressed concern that the “no work after 11 pm rule”, combined with an existing staff shortage in the electricity department, could result in a backlog of repairs and longer periods in the dark.

Residents of Mountview in Northdale endured two days without electricity from Thursday to Saturday morning.

A resident who drove around at midnight on Thursday to find out what was happening was surprised to find that the electricity repair team had left even though power was not restored. He later learnt that this was because of the no work after 11 pm rule.

Tony Ferreira of Foxhill was one of several residents who phoned the municipality to complain about a power outage in his area on Thursday. He too was outraged to learn that unlike in the past, the repair team would no longer work through the night to restore power.

“In other words, we had to wait our turn and there was no telling whether it would be several hours or days before we had our power back,” Ferreira said.

His electricity was restored late on Friday, but for Ferreira this was a minor consolation, as Foxhill could experience up to eight to 10 outages in a month.

This was confirmed by other residents. Ferreira said the community wanted the problem resolved once and for all. He was concerned that the changes to the working hours would mean that residents might wait days before their electricity was restored.

He was once told by the repair team that the Foxhill area was on a wrong phase, said Ferreira.

“The area known as France across the road from us always has electricity when our power goes out so we want to know why we are not placed on the same more reliable phase,” he said.

Msunduzi municipality’s deputy manager for infrastructure services, Thokozani Maseko, avoided replying directly to a question on why electricity repair staff were now barred from working after 11 pm.

Instead, he said a shift system was in place to ensure that the municipality had adequate staff to attend to emergencies.

“Our strategy is to implement the outcome of our study, which has indicated why we have a high number of outages.”

The municipality was focusing mainly on replacing the medium voltage equipment which would minimise and prevent outages, rather than reacting to outages, which not only posed a risk to its employees, but was costly and had a negative impact on customers and how they viewed the municipality.

The city was investing about R25 million to address electrical network challenges, Maseko said.

The complaint about frequent outages at Foxhill would be investigated further to determine how best the affected residents could be assisted.


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