Eastern Cape town still powerless after transformer blows

2015-05-07 14:54

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Sterkstroom – Residents of the small Eastern Cape town of Sterkstroom have been without power since a transformer in the town exploded on Monday morning.

This has left approximately 1 000 households, government institutions, farmers and businesses in the area without electricity for four days and residents are now at their wits' end.

Sterkstroom, along with neighbouring Molteno, falls under the Inkwanca Municipality, which was placed under administration last year.

While some businesses have been able to remain open, running off generators, a vast majority have closed their doors, while residents have been left without lights, hot water or a means to prepare food.

Many have been forced to discard food, gone bad due to lack of refrigeration.

Impact on business

Local guesthouse owner Juli Ley said the lack of power was having a severe impact on her business as well as other businesses around town.

“Just on the accommodation side, I’m losing about R2 000 a day. People hear there’s no electricity and they decide to drive the extra 50km through to Queenstown for accommodation,” she said.

Ley said one business nearby had been forced to throw out over R15 000 worth of chicken because of the power outages. She said they were currently running ATM machines off generators so that people still had access to their money.

Local businessman Andre Malan said the power outage was causing untold damage to the town’s economy.

“We have a large number of lower income earners in the town who simply do not have the luxury of having a fallback option like cooking on gas stoves or having a backup generator, these people are literally surviving on tinned food and bread,” he said.

“It’s bad enough having your power go off for two hours at a time during load shedding, but you can at least plan for that and work around it.”

Malan said it was incomprehensible how the municipality could drag their feet on rectifying the problem.

“We have heard thousands of different stories, from how they needed a truck to transport the transformer, to how the truck was too small, to how they then had the truck but they didn’t have a crane to lift the transformer, etc.” he said.

Replacement transformer

Local ward councillor Lindy Haggard said she had taken the matter up with the acting municipal manager Themba Mnguni on Tuesday already, and had even assisted in locating a truck with a crane to transport a replacement transformer which was kept on standby in Molteno, just 26km away.

“They turned down the truck because it was too small, saying that the transformer weighed 16 tonnes, but when the site was independently inspected today, the weight of the transformer was determined to only be around 7 tonnes, which means it can be easily transported,” she said.

Haggard said a group of around 400 people had toyi toyied on Thursday morning over the electricity outage and lack of service delivery.

She said that the replacement transformer had now been brought in from Molteno and that indications were that the power should be restored before the end of Thursday.

Read more on:    east london  |  service delivery  |  electricity  |  local government

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