Durban - Hundreds of street lights across the eThekwini Municipality are not working, despite millions of rand having been spent to fix them, leaving communities in darkness and vulnerable to crime.
Several councillors on the opposition benches have detailed the extent of the problems in their wards, revealing that some of these street lights have been out of commission for at least two years.
EThekwini Municipality is under fire following revelations that it had overspent on a contract to fix street lights, and had appointed independent contractors to put in new light bulbs.
Media reports stated that the city had paid R579 million for this work. The initial value of the contract was R91m, and while the municipality admits to exceeding this value, it has denied the reported value of R579m. It said an investigation was under way.
If the reported value is accurate, it would mean the municipality exceeded the original value of the contract by more than five times, especially as the light bulbs were supplied by the City to the contractors.
The Mercury understands that contractors collected the bulbs from the municipality’s supply stores and only installed them, meaning that whatever amount was paid was largely for labour.
Ganas Govender, a DA councillor in Chatsworth, said some lights in that area had not been working for close to 12 years.
“Almost the whole of Higginson Highway is scary and unsafe to travel on as it has been without lights for over 12 years. We have had many accidents and deaths on this highway,” he said.
Caelee Liang, a DA councillor in the Kloof and Hillcrest area, said: “We have well over 400 street lights that have not been operational for more than six months. Some have not been operational for over two years.”
DA eThekwini caucus leader Thabani Mthethwa said this situation has strengthened their call that the investigation into alleged tender irregularities should be prioritised as the length of time that most areas had been without street lights coincided with the commencement of the tender.
Patrick Pillay, a Democratic Liberal Congress (DLC) councillor in the Phoenix area, said that many street lights were not working.
“In many instances, these lights have not been working for months. It is unacceptable for these matters not to be addressed effectively, especially when millions of rand were invested to hire contractors to restore street lights in the city,” he said.
IFP ward 39 councillor Mzwethu Gwala, which includes areas like Avoca, said only 30% of his ward had functioning street lights.
“This issue is very confusing (that there was a budget for street lights). We have been pushing for the issue of street lighting to be addressed because most of the criminal activity takes place because of poor lighting.”
Municipal spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the municipality was looking into the matter of street lights and contracts, and should be given space to finalise the matter.
“We have pointed out to all of you (media) that with regard to the street lights contracts there is an ongoing investigation by the CIIU (City Integrity and Investigations Unit). We appeal that the process be allowed to run its course.”
He said the issue of street lights that were not working was a challenge in the City.
“We have lost count of how many times we attend to these street lights only to find that as soon as we turn our backs they are vandalised and communities are again plunged into darkness.
“The City cannot afford to police every street light pole. Everyone has a role to play to nip this scourge in the bud, including councillors. We also expect you, the members of the media, to play your part by partnering with us to educate our communities about the consequences of vandalism as it affects all of us, including you the journalists,” he said.