Double service delivery disgrace

2011-03-23 00:00

A LOCAL farmer and about eight farms surrounding him in the Gamalakhe area lost their telephone service for a month after the cables were stolen and not replaced.

A Telkom technician allegedly admitted to one of the farmers that new cables are not in this year’s budget.

After pestering Telkom for weeks, sugar cane farmer Betle Wichmann’s wife, Tracey, was told that “there is no money in Telkom’s old budget to replace the lines”.

“A consultant from the Marburg office told me that we would have to wait and see if there was money in the new budget to replace the wires — and that is the last we have heard of it,” she said.

Meanwhile, the farmers have not only had to deal with cut-off phones; with year-end audits due and other financial commitments at this time of the year, they have no working fax machines or e-mail facilities.

Local farmer Louis Wichmann said: “Telkom came and went and did nothing. Then they came and laid some white cable on the ground between the poles, but didn’t connect it so nothing happened. Despite getting reference numbers and reports on our cellphones saying ‘Telkom are looking into it’, nothing happened.

“This is really pathetic.”

Wichmann said there are nine farms in the area which have been affected by the missing phone cables and although all of them have called Telkom and put pressure on it, none has had an answer.

When The Witness contacted the Telkom head office it did not deny that its customers are being inconvenienced, saying copper cable theft remains the biggest inhibitor of Telkom’s capability to improve service levels.

The Telkom official made no excuse or promise to attend to Wichmann’s problem.

However, on Saturday morning after another call to Telkom, technicians suddenly arrived and connected the cable that had been lying on the ground. Farmers now have telecommuniciations again, albeit not the permanent pole-to-pole cables.

When Telkom was approached for further comment, a spokesperson again emphasised the problem of cable theft, saying the corporation does not have statistics pertaining to the South Coast.

“Business and residential customers are severely affected due to an alarming amount of copper cable theft that results in service interruptions,” said the spokesperson.

“The severity of the impact is due to the fact that ICT services are a vital component to the running of businesses and an integral part of everyday living.

“… In many high-theft areas, cable is repeatedly stolen, sometimes within days after replacements or repairs.

“The direct impact of cable theft includes the disruption of essential services and costs of replacements or repairs of the affected infrastructure.

“Telkom has observed a trend in the deliberately determined cycle of theft.

“This is damaging businesses, depriving our customers of a basic service and, in some cases adversely affecting their security.

“Of course this is affecting our capacity to deliver services within acceptable time intervals.”

The spokesperson said that ground cable was an “interim measure”, to deal with theft until Telkom can find a permanent solution.

Wichmann has another problem on his farm that shows service delivery at its worst.

A huge leak from a burst pipe that runs through his farm has been gushing thousands of litres daily.

He said he reported the leak to Ugu District Municipality “in August last year … somebody from Ugu came out to look 13 weeks later, then again in October and in November last year.

“Someone came on February 1 this year and again on February 28. I have several reference numbers, but nothing is done about this terrible waste of water.

Nobody seems to care … what more am I supposed to do?”

Ugu Municipality has not bothered to comment, several days after being asked for a response.

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