Councillors in Alberton, part of the City of Ekurhuleni (CoE) metro, expressed their frustrations following numerous ongoing power outages that have left residents and businesses in darkness for days on end.
On July 15, they tabled their demands for the energy department following outages, which have brought frustration and anger to both businesses and residents due to great financial losses.
This is also after the council reportedly rejected an urgent electricity motion calling for the CoE to decisively take action on illegal connections among other things.
On behalf of councillors, Ward 94 councillor Marina van Wyk reiterated that more focus should be put into upgrading and maintaining the city’s infrastructures.
“We demand that the electricity department appoints a consultant to investigate the number of electricity users and average consumption per household and businesses for summer and winter. They should upgrade the substations and electricity grid to accommodate the current load,” she said.
Van Wyk also demanded development and more workers who will be responsible for managing power concerns.
“We demand an increase in experienced qualified staff that will cope with outages and faults. They should also add additional capacity to the grid, to allow for our ever-expanding city of Alberton,” she said.
DA member of parliament Mike Waters said in a statement that the CoE’s energy department lacks manpower.
“Given the chronic shortage of staff and the lack of basic maintenance, it is not surprising that Ekurhuleni experiences, on average, 1,570 unplanned outages per day. This is crippling industries and businesses across the City, and as the industrial hub of the country we can ill afford these outages,” he said.
David Burt, New Redruth community forum chairperson, highlighted that when a power outage arises, the energy department only carries out temporal repairs.
“We have had numerous outages over the past few months and residents are getting upset about this. We would like to see that the theft of cables and malicious destruction of infrastructure be classified as sabotage and appropriate sentences must be handed out,” he said.
He also called for proper and timeous communication from the city and said these outages have frustrated many residents.
“This will help get a lot of answers and help solve a lot of frustrations among the community if they know what is happening. The community is now threatening protest action, some residents want to start boycotting paying less for the services which they are not getting,” said Burt.
According to Sonia Nijhuis, who has resided in Verwoerd Park for 36 years, power outages greatly inconvenience them as residents.
“As a grandmother who looks after a three-month-old baby who needs a hot bottle of milk, I find this situation bad. I cannot believe what is happening to our town. If it is not water, it is electricity. I pay R7,000 monthly for my account. When power goes off, the bill is still the same,” she said.
The City’s energy department requests customers to be patient during this lockdown period as the City deals with the Covid-19 pandemic.
This reportedly affects operations as more staff test positive and some go into quarantine.
It stated that this results in delays in attending and resolving complaints as the department continues to work on skeleton staff.
“Street light repairs are not prioritised at this stage as all resources are directed to assist with power outages. Efforts will be made to shorten restoration times, but the department does not rule out the possibility of shutting down depots for a period of time should the need arise due to Covid-19 challenges,” it stated.