‘We’ve had enough’ - Msunduzi electricity outages

2017-06-26 09:58
A sign on shop windows at the Quarry Centre in Hilton on Friday notifying customers they can only take cash; many other businesses were closed. Hilton has been without electricity since Wednesday due to the ongoing Msunduzi municipal strike at the electricity department.

A sign on shop windows at the Quarry Centre in Hilton on Friday notifying customers they can only take cash; many other businesses were closed. Hilton has been without electricity since Wednesday due to the ongoing Msunduzi municipal strike at the electricity department. (Ian Carbutt)

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Residents demand answers over lengthy power outages.

Why couldn’t they just go into the substations and switch the power back on?

That’s the question many residents were asking on Friday after Msunduzi workers are alleged to have sabotaged the power supply to many parts of the city.

Three days ago, suburbs including Scottsville, Hilton, Sweetwaters and Pelham and parts of the city centre were plunged into darkness.

Weekend Witness asked Msunduzi spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha whether there was damage to substations that would take time to repair, following rumours that some had been torched, but she confirmed that no substation or municipal property was damaged during the strike. She said it was just a matter of switching the lights back on in the affected areas.

“Private contractors have been called out to switch the electricity back on,” she said on Friday.

Fuming residents called the municipality “uncaring” and “inconsiderate” for leaving them in the lurch without electricity this week.

Frustrated residents have been forced to throw away thousands of rands worth of groceries, move their frail family members who depend on oxygen tanks to other areas with power and many businesses shut their doors.

As temperatures dropped yesterday to around 13 degrees Celcius and lower in the Midlands, and with some areas still without power, residents said they had “lost all hope” in Msunduzi municipality.

“The worst part is the lack of communication. We cannot get hold of anyone who knows anything. No one can tell us when the power will return so we can at least prepare ourselves,” said a Hilton resident.

Sweetwaters and Hilton had their electricity switched off at around 7 pm on Wednesday evening and by late Friday, the power had not been restored.

A number of the businesses at the Hilton Quarry Centre were forced to close their doors to customers.

Hair salon owner in the centre, Jess Jobling said she had to continue to run the salon on a generator.

“Running the salon on a generator is no fun. We are tired of this now,” Jobling said.

Lynda De la Hey from health shop Healthy Times at the Hilton Quarry Centre said they were forced to take the thousands of rands worth of probiotics home to keep them cool in their personal refrigerators.

“We have been taking them home in cool boxes and then freezing the gel packs to bring them to work the next day to keep the medication cool at the store,” she said.

“It is freezing cold and we are sitting in the dark while other shops have been forced to close,” she said.

Another resident who lives in the city centre said she was forced to take her ailing father to Durban for the weekend for fear that the electricity would not be restored.

He father depends on an oxygen tank. The woman, who asked not to be named, said after the electricity went off on Wednesday, she waited for the power to be restored by the next day.

“When I saw the electricity was still off, I had to call family in Durban to make arrangements for him to go there for the weekend,” she said.

She said she was “utterly disgusted and disappointed” in the municipality and its employees for treating people “poorly”.

“We pay our rates and bills yet we are punished. How is this fair? I understand that the workers need to sort their issues out with the municipality but why is it at our expense?” she asked.

Attempts to contact the Msunduzi mayor and municipal manager again yesterday to get comment from them were unsuccessful.

Msunduzi spokesperson apologises 

Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said they were doing everything they could to make sure electricity was restored to the city.

She said she could not elaborate on the status of the electricity department strike as “the matter is between an employer and employee”.

“Measures have been put in place and many areas have their electricity back on. Msunduzi Mayor Themba Njilo extends his apology to all affected residents,” she said.

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