Strikers ‘turn off the lights’

2017-06-20 13:45
Suspension means electricity shambles and no answers.

Suspension means electricity shambles and no answers. (File)

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It is a total shambles.

Residents and business owners believe the City’s electricity department is in deep trouble and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.

Major suburbs were thrust into darkness early on Monday morning and Edendale residents protested against alleged unlawful deductions on their prepaid electricity tokens.

Numerous calls, e-mails and texts were sent to acting municipal manager Sizwe Hadebe, spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha and mayor Themba Njilo, but they did not respond.

Prestbury, Blackridge, Boughton, Thembalihle, Swapo, Scottsville, Mount Michael and parts of Hilton were left without electricity for most of Monday as workers protested at the electricity depot in Doull Road.

Speaking to The Witness on condition of anonymity, an electricity contractor said they believed aggrieved electricity workers sabotaged the power supply in some areas “to make the municipality drop to its knees”.

The serious allegation was repeated by numerous other municipal employees, frustrated residents and business owners.

According to a municipal employee working in the electricity department, they downed tools in solidarity after Hadebe allegedly suspended 49 electricity employees last Thursday. It is believed they were suspended for allegedly damaging municipal property during a protest outside City Hall last month when employees’ salaries were delayed.

City spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said no employees who had protested had been suspended. She would not comment further.

The employee said they were called to a meeting with Hadebe at Harry Gwala Stadium two weeks ago, where Hadebe allegedly apologised to workers for the delay in their salary last month. “Now he is going back on his word. We thought everything was fine because he apologised and we forgave him,” he said.

He said the suspensions raised “serious concerns” as the municipality’s electricity department was already struggling. “How will they manage the electricity crisis in the city with almost 50 workers suspended? Do they care more about politics than the residents?” asked the employee.

An executive council member, DA councillor Glenn McArthur, said the electricity department fiasco seemed to be interlinked with other service delivery protests in the city.

“It is also directly a result of the senior politicians and [Hadebe] not listening to what they are being told by opposition politicians and staff in general,” McArthur said.

He claimed that Hadebe and his executives dismiss warnings in meetings.

“With the suspensions of the former municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi, chief auditor Petrus Mahlaba, manager in Nkosi’s office Madeleine Jackson and the general manager for infrastructure Sabatha Nomnganga, and the imminent sidelining of the general manager for finance Nelisiwe Ngcobo and general manager for community services Boniwe Zulu, one can only wonder who is left to run this municipality,” McArthur said.

He called on the Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Department to step in and put the municipality under administration again.

Prestbury ward councillor Ross Strachan said “once again” Ward 26 was without service delivery. He said he was forced to call in Prestbury police to assist with the “traffic madness” yesterday when aggressive protesters barricaded parts of Edendale and Imbali with burning tyres and caused havoc as taxi drivers took back routes around the protests to deliver their passengers.

“After the morning rush the electricity was cut in Blackridge, Boughton and Prestbury and the reasons for this are still unknown and I as a ward councillor has been kept in the dark as usual,” Strachan said, adding that businesses in the area were losing income. Owner of the Babbling Brook BnB, Moraig Hesterman, was forced to turn away guests because of the electricity situation.

Another small business owner, Lorna Leighton, said she was furious.

“My staff are just sitting and waiting for the electricity to come on. I have lost business this entire day yet the municipality will come knocking on my door if I am a day late with my electricity and water payments,” Leighton said.

Strachan added that the lack of communication and lack of quality management in the city had “really hit rock bottom”.

“Accountability is a forgotten word and no other description fits better than anarchy,” Strachan said.

The final decision on Msunduzi’s 1,88% electricity tariff increase was brought to the executive council meeting last week.

The Msunduzi municipality was forced to bring this recommendation to the council with the new tariff after they had already prematurely approved the initial 3,08% tariff increase without the thumbs up from national electricity regulator, Nersa.

Last week council updated the report and the executive council recommended the amended tariff to the Full Council.

The DA supported the new recommendations since they initially opposed the higher increase.

DA caucus leader Sibongiseni Majola raised serious concerns regarding the poor communication between Msunduzi and Nersa.

“As the result of this, the whole budget is invalid ...

“At last the ANC-run council has been forced to accept the initial proposal of the DA and the public at large,” Majola said.

He added that this resulted in “excessive wasteful expenditure”.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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