Groping in the dark

2014-07-09 00:00

AS temperatures plummet in Pietermaritzburg, pockets of residents who pay for electricity have been sitting in the dark, cold and shivering, while bright lights blaze in the illegally connected nearby informal settlements.

The situation has reached crisis proportions as the residents currently face more than two weeks a month without electricity.

Copesville, downtown around the Jika Joe informal settlement, and parts of the northern suburbs are the worst hit areas. The problem has been solved in Northdale and ward councillor Rooksana Ahmed said this was as a result of meetings that the affected residents had with her and municipal officials.

“To assist the residents who were experiencing the continuous outages, the municipality erected an additional mini sub-station in Bombay Road and this has alleviated the problem. In addition, work has started on electrifying the informal settlement,” Ahmed said.

She said they now have a system whereby concerned residents will be taken to meet the officials so amicable solutions to problems can be found.

In Copesville, the story is different.

A resident from Opal Terrace, who did not want to be named for fear of victimisation, has a file of over a year’s worth of e-mails and text messages he has sent to every senior official in the municipality, without a single response.

He said they had no power for the whole of last week. It was restored on Saturday by 3 pm, and went off again on Sunday at 6 pm. According to residents, on average they have about three days of electricity a week.

From Johannesburg, Josh Magan­beharie has been writing to the municipality about the plight of his mother, a pensioner who lives in the northern suburbs. He expressed his helplessness over the situation and begged the municipality to do something. “I am at a loss as it is out of my control.”

Tammy Ramlagan has also been contacting the municipality on behalf of her mother, for over a year. In one of her e-mails, she wrote that the electricity is sorted out and then a couple of hours later it goes off and residents have to wait hours on end for electricians to come out.

“I do understand that electricity is being stolen, but why hasn’t the municipality come up with a plan so that paying customers do not sit without electricity?” After sending e-mails and being ignored, residents hope that their plea through the media will get a response.

Msunduzi spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said illegal electricity connections were a country-wide problem crippling the economy of South Africa.

She said the municipality had set up an electricity task team at the end of last year and in the short time it had been in existence, it had been recognised for its work.

She said staff and contractors were disconnecting illegal connections each day.

Mafumbatha advised that the affected residents needed to contact their ward councillor or ward committee with their complaints.

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