Shocking neglect

2014-02-24 00:00

Oven gloves and gates

For three weeks, Bindu Harry wore rubber-soled shoes and used oven gloves to open her front gate. The reason? Msunduzi workers who were carrying out repairs had thrown a live electricity cable over her gate. All her efforts to get the municipality to sort out the problem fell on deaf ears. On Friday, matters came to a head. Her brother Vinod Maikoo came to visit and was badly shocked when he went to open the gate; he was flung to the ground.

A hysterical Harry called The Witness, saying she had had enough and wanted to expose this negligence. In the chaos that ensued, she had run out forgetting her oven gloves and also ended up being shocked as she grabbed the lock on the gate.

Harry said the problem started when some municipal workers were digging outside her house to carry out some electrical work. It seemed they struck a water pipe and the next minute the hole had filled up with water. They placed the cable over her gate and left. She wrote to the municipality informing them of the water leak and it was purportedly fixed but the cable was left on her gate and she could get no action on this front.

Harry said that she had reported the problem to the call centre and was told that it would be sorted out and she must wait in the queue. “At that time the shocks were mild, so I waited, but on Friday it got worse,” she said.

The Witness contacted the electricity department after Harry’s shocking experience and a team arrived pronto. They were there when Witness photographer Jonathan Burton arrived but moved away as he took a photograph.

Maikoo told the workers, “Look at what you made me do. If you had done your job, I wouldn’t have had to call the newspaper.”

However, she was still gracious and thanked the electricity department for finally sorting out the problem.

“I’m thankful because my brother was not seriously harmed. I don’t know what I would have done if anything happened to him or anyone else. I should have kicked up a fuss sooner rather than being patient, expecting them to come each day and using my oven gloves,” Maikoo said.

Ward councillor Jay Singh said Harry’s incident was just one on a list where live electricity cables are exposed and safety has been compromised. He forwarded Witness Warriors a letter he had sent to the electricity department on February 13 highlighting the problem. He told them that temporary power restoration at consumers’ homes seems to have become permanent.

Singh said yesterday that since he has had no response so far, he is going to follow up this week with the senior officials. “When the staff do not play the game the councillors take the flack,” he said.

“Safety should never be compromised because of poor workmanship in this field. As a matter of urgency and to avoid blood on council hands, I suggest you conduct an inspection in loco at all ‘temporary’ supply points in our city and rectify [them].” He listed examples:

1) 22 Arthur Road — main supply cable from CDU [central distribution network] to consumer’s meter box, exposed on front lawn (from 2012).

2) 135 Butterfly Road — cable joint done on driveway and left exposed … at main entrance of dwelling (from October 2013).

3) 12 Simeon Road — main supply cable to consumer’s home hanging dangerously (not secured from December 2013).

4) 1a Mattison drive — main supply cable lying exposed at front entrance of dwelling (since October 2013).

Municipal spokesperson Brian Zuma said they will be investigating the breakdown in communication, both in Harry’s case and the issues raised by councillor Singh and why these matters had not been attended to.

He said the municipality took safety seriously and that as soon as the electricity department was informed about the incident on Friday, it acted immediately.

City of Darkness

Debbie Burt writes: “I sent you an e-mail a couple of weeks ago to complain about the lack of street lights in Alan Paton Avenue — the entrance to our city for many visitors, especially over Dusi and the Maritzburg Marathon.

I then sent an e-mail a week later to you thanking you for your support as the street lights were working! Well we are in darkness again, and in time for the Dusi participants and the marathon runners to be welcomed to the ‘City of Darkness’!!!

We have since phoned the electricity department and were assured they would look in to the matter. Still waiting.

It was reported last Monday (17th) in your article as a thumbs up that the street lights were on; please can you give the electricity department a huge thumbs down this week?”

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