Pietermaritzburg informal residents cause chaos in the CBD
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DURBAN - THE KwaZulu-Natal Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC Sipho Hlomuka will on Thursday be discussing the state of the province’s municipalities that are under section 139(1)b Intervention.
The intervention provision empowers a provincial executive to intervene in the affairs of a municipality that cannot or does not fulfil an executive or legislative function in terms of the Constitution. The provision is also to restore the municipality’s functionality in terms of proper governance, administration and, by extension, service delivery.
Protests in the Msunduzi Municipality over electricity outages erupted on Wednesday. A shop was set alight after several protests brought the Pietermaritzburg CBD to a halt.
Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said the protest broke out in the CBD, mostly in areas where illegal electricity connections were disconnected.
A group of protesters demanded free electricity, water, accommodation and groceries. The group blocked roads with rubble and domestic refuse. They also forced the closure of shops in the CBD.
Police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele said the protest began at 6.30am and involved 300 residents from Jika Joe informal Settlement.
“They blockaded Masukwana and Church Street with burning tyres. The road is still closed and motorists are advised to use alternate routes. A shop has since been set alight but the fire was put down by the fire department,” Mbele said.
Msunduzi DA ward 26 councillor Ross Strachan said emotions had been running high this week over prolonged electricity outages. Strachan said it was due to collapsing infrastructure in the Msunduzi Municipality.
“Two protests turned into an absolute nightmare of a day for all authorities and residents. Shops that were open were looted. It turned into looting and criminality. There were protests in Sweetwaters but it subsided quickly when police arrived. Some areas have been without an electricity supply for a week,” he said.
Strachan said lots of money and time was required to fix the problem. He met with officials from the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) and Eskom recently.
“Both sent teams out to inspect and devised plans to resolve the problems. It is not an easy quick fix. The city needs money to maintain and upgrade the infrastructure. In next five years we will see improvement. Our electricity grid has collapsed. The grid cannot handle it now with load shedding. It puts pressure on a failing system,” Strachan said.
The Msunduzi Municipality released a list of electricity faults they were attending to on Wednesday.