Residents fed up with being kept in the dark by City

2017-05-17 13:30
Disgruntled Hilton resident Vernon van Heerden boils water for tea on a gas ring after being without electricity since Friday.

Disgruntled Hilton resident Vernon van Heerden boils water for tea on a gas ring after being without electricity since Friday. (Ian Carbutt)

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Unanswered calls, a lack of empathy, “clueless” responses and “blatant ignorance” are some of the reasons why residents have called Msunduzi Municipality “useless”.

Hilton, Mpophomeni and Sweetwaters residents were still left without electricity on Tuesday, some of them since Friday, but that is not all they are upset about. Residents said the lack of communication from the municipality made their days of darkness an even more unbearable situation.

“No one answers at the call centre and if they do, they tell us they do not know what is happening. Everyone should just get dismissed and an entire new municipality should be employed,” said highly frustrated Hilton resident Vernon van Heerden.

He said living without electricity could have been bearable if the municipality notified residents on what was “actually” going on.

“We are always fed the same stupid line that the cable is faulty. They are worthless and uninterested in helping us.

“If it is not the electricity in Hilton then it is the water or the roads that we are having problems with,” said Van Heerden.

On Monday Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha was asked what the reasons were behind the major power outage and when residents could expect their power to return. After a long delay and another follow-up call from The Witness on Tuesday, Mafumbatha said the municipal e-mail system was not working so The Witness was forced to send the queries via Whats­App message.

The list of questions sent to Mafumbatha were not answered as she only responded saying the electricity was restored to the area om Tuedday morning, however, some residents said their power was only restored later in the day and some only in the evening.

Msunduzi DA caucus leader Sibongiseni Majola, who lives in Sweetwaters, said the area had been out since Sunday without any explanation from the call centre.

“There are people like me who buy meat in bulk and put it in the fridge. There are pupils and students who needed to study on that Sunday night but could not.”

Majola questioned the municipality’s explanation that there was a cable fault. “These power outages have been around the city.

“For two weeks they were in Northdale, then Woodlands and they went to the CBD. There must be another explanation to this.”

He said the vacancies at the municipality might be contributing to the City’s woes.

“Recently in the strategic planning workshop, the general manager for infrastructure told us that according to the approved organogram there should be four senior managers reporting to him yet there is only one who is operating as an acting manager. You cannot have one person doing jobs for three people including himself,” he said.

In a press statement issued by Msunduzi councillor Renesha Jugmohan on Monday, she said they were “shocked” to learn that no operational plans for three important business units in the city were submitted for audit.

She said the DA would be writing to the Msunduzi mayor, Themba Njilo, to demand that an infrastructure development plan is prioritised and implemented in Msunduzi.

“At the Municipal Public Accounts Committee (MPAC) meeting, we were told that there were no divisional operational plans submitted for audit purposes across three technical departments in Msunduzi, namely: Water and Sanitation, Electricity and Building,” Jugmohan said.

She said no explanation was given.

“We receive complaints daily from the community expressing dissatisfaction with power outages caused by the failing infrastructure in Msunduzi, only to find that the ANC-led municipality has never made any maintenance plans for these key departments,” she said.

Mafumbatha said she was still investigating the issues raised by the DA and could not comment yesterday.

Still no five-year maintenance plan

In October last year The Witness revealed that Msunduzi Municipality has no long-term plan to maintain and replace its infrastructure.

This came to light in an executive committee meeting where an item detailing the lack of a five-year maintenance plan had remained on the agenda under outstanding matters since last year.

The report revealed that the city had a one-year infrastructure plan, but not a much-needed five-year plan, which should detail which aspects of the city’s infrastructure need to be replaced and how urgent the upgrades are.

Infrastructure services general manager at that time Sabatha Nomnganga told the executive committee that they could not explain the reasons behind the power out­ages plaguing the city without the plan.

“It is important to have a five-year plan in light of the fact that the city has such ageing infrastructure,” Nomnganga said.

He said the need for the plan was pointed out in the auditor-general’s report this year.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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