Msunduzi gets up to 100 calls for electricity faults around the city on most days, with the faults mostly caused by failing infrastructure, theft and vandalism.
Municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said their transformers are also blowing up at an unprecedented rate due to different reasons, but mostly because of overloading as a result of illegal connections.
Deputy Mayor Manilal Inderjit, who is also the chairperson of the infrastructure services portfolio committee, confirmed that financial challenges stalled the City’s plan in dealing with aging infrastructure.
“The issue of vandalism has spiralled out of control and we don’t believe they are isolated cases. They are becoming more brazen day by day.
“We have people even disconnecting and stealing transformers. Obviously they are using them elsewhere or they’re selling them as scrap,” he said.
He said last weekend four men were caught trying to steal a transformer in Foxhill in broad daylight.
They had already taken it down from the poles when they were nabbed.
The outages have led to several protests, the latest being at Haniville where the community lambasted Msunduzi for not telling them the truth about why they had been without lights since last Friday. Apparently they were among several areas where transformers were taken away for maintenance.
Inderjit said while there was a need for the City to embark on a major maintenance programme to deal with ageing infrastructure, their attempts to commission new sub-stations to meet the current electricity demand were frustrated by criminals.
Msunduzi’s financial woes have also been blamed for the City’s inability to pay some of the electricity service providers, which has delayed the turnaround time on faults.
These include paying for the repairs of transformers and buying the necessary parts, however Inderjit would not be drawn to comment on these.
He conceded that illegal connections also contributed to the financial issues because the City could not collect enough revenue to set funds aside for maintenance.
On Thursday afternoon a wide swathe of the city was plunged into darkness. Northern Park, Chase Valley, Blackridge, Oak Park, Wembley, Athlone, Montrose, Prestbury, Hilton and Sweetwaters were among the areas affected.
Spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said the “unplanned interruption” was suspected to be a trip on the MV (Medium Voltage) network from Retief Primary substation.
Meanwhile, the Mason primary substation near Hulamin caught fire on Thursday evening.
A back-up fire crew had to be rerouted from the dump to attend to it. They were still on the scene at the time of publication.