Outage brings outrage

2015-06-10 11:31
Outraged over the four-day electricity outage in the area, Prestbury resident Sihle Mchunu holds a box of rotting fish.

Outraged over the four-day electricity outage in the area, Prestbury resident Sihle Mchunu holds a box of rotting fish. (Jonathan Burton)

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“WE are human too, but we are treated as if we are just numbers on a list.”

That’s the sentiment of frustrated residents in the Prestbury area who have been left without electricity for four days while the municipality attempts to “find the fault”.

Families in Gardens, Beverley and Gibson roads have had no electricity since the early hours of Saturday morning. They have lost thousands of rands worth of food which went bad due to the electricity outage.

Adding salt to the wound, the water supply in the area was also cut off on Sunday morning until later that night.

“We need hot water to bath and make food. I have a one-year-old baby who needs milk. We have already lost the food in the fridge and freezer and it was painful to see our hard-earned money go to waste,” said Gardens Road resident Senzo Khanyile.

He said he bought food in bulk using his salary last month and is now left with “almost nothing”.

The family have been waking up almost three hours earlier each morning to start their day by boiling water on a two-plate gas stove for bathing and cooking.

Khanyile said he and his family have now been forced to move to a friend’s house until the electricity is back.

“We cannot survive like this. My family need to live better than this,” he said.

Ward councillor Glenn McArthur said he was notified about the problem by residents and when he queried it with the managers at the electricity department, he was told they were not aware of the problem, although residents claim to have repeatedly reported the outage.

“Municipal management need to communicate with the residents and the ward councillors if there is a problem. When the person told me he had no knowledge of the problem, I was confused. How do they [municipal managers] not know what is going on in their own department? I was later informed by one the of managers that it is not a major fault. They don’t realise that it is a major problem for the residents. What is so disappointing is they look at the situation just as an electrical problem without realising people are involved,” said McArthur.

Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Nqobile Madonda said repairs could have been done sooner had their electricians “been able to access the cable that lies in between the properties”.

She said electricians found a “fault on the cable” and electricity should have been restored by yesterday morning. However, at the time of going to print late yesterday, houses were still without power.

“These properties have their backyards facing each other and the cable runs at the back. Municipal workers started working there on Sunday but could not gain access to the cable as some properties were locked and they could not get to the cable,” she said.

Families huddled around a roadside fire on Monday evening for warmth while neighbours with gas stoves brought over warm soup.

Beverley Road resident Sihle Mchunu said the municipality told him it would take three months before his food claim loss would be processed.

“I went to the municipality to find out how I can claim money for my food. They said I had to get an affidavit from the police, take photos of my food and write up a price list of everything that went bad. I was told it will take three months for the municipality to process my claim. In the meantime what do I eat? How do I feed my 18-month-old child? Just because we don’t strike and make a mess doesn’t mean the municipality and government should take advantage of us,” said Mchunu.

Madonda said affected residents will need to approach the municipality’s insurance department and be advised further on their claims

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  electricity

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