Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)
Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Msunduzi turns to Eskom for help with electricity crisis

By Thami Magubane Time of article published Feb 22, 2021

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DURBAN - THE MSUNDUZI Municipality is getting increasingly desperate to find a solution to the city’s electricity crisis which has been caused by its ageing infrastructure.

In its latest move it has called on Eskom to “take over” part of the maintenance of the municipality’s network.

The city has proposed a service-level agreement where Eskom will maintain some sub-stations and help capacitate some of the city’s workers.

The proposed agreement was approved in a special council meeting last week, but the agreement itself has yet to be signed.

Opposition parties, who supported the arrangement, however expressed concern with the service-level agreement saying it could further compromise the municipality as it was battling financially and may struggle to pay Eskom for services rendered.

The municipality has battled to keep the lights on in several areas since the beginning of the year after two of its sub-stations failed.

The report tabled before council stated that the city faced continuous outages due to the numerous faults on the existing networks due to ageing infrastructure; theft and vandalism and network capacity constraints.

It said Eskom had been instrumental in helping the city quickly restore power and felt there was a need to formalise the arrangement.

“Eskom has been assisting the municipality under emergency request, it has become necessary to formalise the partnership to stabilise the network.

“Eskom will be responsible for the emergency repairs to electricity infrastructure as and when required. Eskom’s scope is not limited to the items that include 14 sub-stations and transmission lines as it has expertise to work on these areas.

“It will also take charge of the assessments of electricity infrastructure status and recommendations of short, medium and long-term solutions covering the operations and maintenance; refurbishment and upgrades,” it said.

The report said Eskom would also assist in building capacity within the Msunduzi municipality including staff training, skills transfer, best practices, processes, standards, including tools and equipment.

ACDP councillor Rienus Niemand said they supported the proposal as the council had no choice. He said the current crisis was of the city’s own making.

“The national treasury sets a guideline that we should spend about 8% of our capital budget on maintenance of our infrastructure, which we have not been doing and as a results we have these problems.”

DA councillor Sibongiseni Majola said they were concerned about the service-level agreement.

“Our guys are there and they are being paid well but they are struggling, we know that Eskom would be taking over the refurbishment of some of our sub-stations.

“It stipulates that for any work Eskom does, they should be paid 50% upfront and then the balance after the work is done, there was no discussion on where the money would come from, in fact, we are going to struggle to pay those invoices when they are due.

“Another concern is that part of the Eskom mandate is that they will have to capacitate some of the staff. That means we have people in the electricity department that are not capable and which brings up the question of how they were hired in the first place,” said Majola.

Sikonathi Mantshantsha of Eskom Group Holdings SOC said the agreement had not yet been signed. “The talks are nearing the end stage. Eskom in KwaZulu-Natal will make the necessary communication once an agreement has been reached.”

The municipality had not responded to a request for further comment by the time of publication.

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The Mercury

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