Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency(ANA).

DURBAN – The eThekwini Municipality has agreed to a request for technical support from the embattled Msunduzi Municipality (Pietermaritzburg) for its electricity unit “in the spirit of ubuntu”.

The issue was placed before eThekwini’s executive committee (Exco) on Tuesday by city manager Sipho Nzuza and accepted by all councillors, barring the Democratic Alliance (DA).

Msunduzi was placed under administration in April by KwaZulu-Natal’s cooperative governance and traditional affairs department (Cogta) and is currently being run by administrator Sbu Sitole, who used to be eThekwini’s city manager. Sitole made a written request to Nzuza in June.

In the report he delivered at Exco, Nzuza said Msunduzi was seeking a work assessment “to improve the assurance of electricity supply” to its primary and secondary sub-stations.

Support would also be needed based on the outcomes of the assessment and for the supply and installation of meters, particularly for commercial and industrial consumers.

According to Nzuza, the extent of the support would be “soft”, instead of financial. 

“This includes allocation of suitably skilled staff to engage and carry out the assessment exercise in conjunction with the staff of Msunduzi Municipality,” said Nzuza.

“There will be zero financial contribution from eThekwini and any support provided will be in the form of goodwill, technical analysis, capacity building, skills transfer, information sharing and training.”

Nzuza added that the initiative would be planned to not affect service delivery within eThekwini and that there was no risk for the city. Instead, the help would assist Msunduzi “in dealing with their technical challenges and assist in managing their own network related risks,” he said.

DA caucus leader Nicole Graham said her party would not support the initiative because eThekwini’s electrical department needed to start working to an acceptable standard within the city before being used elsewhere.

“I think the quality of services provided to eThekwini by the electricity department has sharply declined over the past 18 months. If Msunduzi needs technical support they can employ consultants. What is happening in our department should be a priority,” said Graham.

“I don’t think this department is functioning in such a way that it can afford now to ship off expertise to another municipality,” she said.

Exco had heard earlier that eThekwini’s electricity unit had incurred R179.3 million in irregular expenditure at the end of the financial period of 2018/2019.

But acting mayor Fawzia Peer said that with “all of the expertise” eThekwini had, the city was “honoured and proud at the fact that we can assist other municipalities”. 

Peer said that the requested assessment was accepted, but should not affect eThekwini’s service delivery.

African News Agency (ANA)