Fragility of eThekwini Municipality’s network sparks fears ahead of new load-shedding schedule

A boy lays on a couch and looks at a burning candle during load shedding

File Picture: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Published May 22, 2023


Durban - Councillors in eThekwini are concerned that the City’s return to a normal load-shedding schedule this week could prove disastrous for residents, with power outages lasting longer due to the fragility of the network.

The councillors said the repairs to the infrastructure damaged by the storms more than a year ago would take years to complete, and that the two major substations in the City had not been repaired. They said this contributed to the electricity network being vulnerable and prone to outages.

The councillors expressed their concerns in a special council meeting on Friday following the announcement that Eskom and eThekwini had reached an agreement for the City to return to the normal load-shedding schedule.

The schedule has been released by the City which said it would come into effect on May 25.

DA councillor Thabani Mthethwa, who had called for a special council meeting, said the City should invest financial resources to fix the network or the residents could find themselves in darkness for prolonged periods.

He said that head of electricity Maxwell Mthembu had presented the new schedule, which was purported to be aligned with demands from Eskom to lift eThekwini’s partial exemption.

“The issue is not eThekwini being subjected to load shedding like the rest of the country, but not knowing whether the lights will come back after load shedding,” said Mthethwa.

“Various questions remain unanswered, one of them being how the City will mitigate trip-outs, which cause extended outages after load shedding.

“If the power comes back after load shedding and 30 seconds later, the power is out again, that means there is no longer any guarantee as to when that power will return. It is now an issue of managing the infrastructure. We are concerned about that as the infrastructure will now be turned on and off regularly,” he said.

“There are two substations that have not been repaired since the floods, the City needs to fix these to make sure that we have more stability in the network.”

“For Mthembu to unashamedly state that repairs will take at least three years is an insult to the residents of this City. Roads are falling apart, residents are subjected to unexplained power outages, crime is unchallenged, and businesses are closing, yet funds are allocated towards luxuries,” said Mthethwa.

IFP councillor Mdu Nkosi said it was important that the City and Eskom kept to the load-shedding schedule, saying people were now planning around these schedules and if they were not honoured, that would have a detrimental effect on public life and business.

“We do not want a situation where power comes back 45 minutes later than had been scheduled,” said Nkosi.

Nkosi said they were pleased to learn that pump stations would not be affected, which meant there would be no interruption to the water supply.

ANC councillor Nkosenhle Madlala said they were happy to have received a cogent presentation on the state of electricity supply in the City.

“The presentation, especially the reviewed load-shedding schedule, is going to help to allay fears and prevent unnecessary panic in our City. As the ANC, we are going to continue to work with business and communities during this difficult period. We call upon the people to only act on the information provided by the City and not to fall prey to fear-mongers and panic-peddlers,” he said.