Durban - An electricity project in Mtubatuba costing more than R30 million is under threat, with one contractor having abandoned the project and the second threatening to leave.
The project to electrify about 1 400 homes in Ward 19 is already overdue; it was supposed to have been completed in September last year and the number of homes to benefit has been decreased to 900 because of cost escalations.
Ward councillor Qhina Mkhwanazi said two contractors had been appointed by Eskom in an effort to get the job done. The initial contract was said to be worth more than R25m.
Mkhwanazi said he had written to Eskom several times raising concerns about the project.
He said the first contractor was on site for a few months and erected the poles and cables to some homes and then disappeared with the work incomplete.
He said the second contractor was now threatening to leave, complaining of not being paid enough.
“The second contractor says the area they are supposed to cover is too big for the money they are being paid. They almost abandoned the work.
“They tried to leave in the middle of the night and fortunately they are renting at my home and I was able to stop them. I had to confiscate their car keys so they would not leave,” he said.
Mkhwanazi said they had taken a break for the holidays and he was not sure when they would return.
The ward councillor said the company was supposed to turn on the lights in about 132 homes in the area on December 14 and 15, but that did not happen, something that drew the ire of community members.
Eskom spokesman Khulu Phasiwe, however, said they had an agreement with the second contractor to complete the work of the first contractor and also do new work due this year. He said the terms were accepted by the contractor.
He said the first contractor left the site after a problem with overexpenditure.
“New reduced rates were established for the 2015/16 financial year, which were not accepted by the original contractor. A replacement contractor, to whom the revised rates were acceptable, was appointed to complete the work.”
Phasiwe said homes that were expected to be switched on in December would get electricity this year.
The planned cost of the project was about R31m, he said.
Mtubatuba mayor Israel Nyawo said he was aware of the second contractor.
“They deal directly with Eskom. They had issues regarding their contract and Eskom said those issues had been resolved.”
Nyawo said this was the second phase of the project and part of the ward had been electrified. He said the number of homes to benefit had been reduced because of cost escalation on the project.