Johannesburg - As the country continues to buckle under the pressure of load shedding, communities in Primrose and Germiston said they were fed up with the constant unscheduled blackouts which had led to an increase in crime in their areas.
They are now planning to march to the City of Ekurhuleni offices next week to protest against the lack of power and energy supply as well as service delivery grievances.
The frustrated residents said they planned to approach the High Court in a bid to force the Ekurhuleni metro council to provide them with energy. Due to their frustrations, an increasing number of people drafted affidavits, detailing their plight due to the lack of energy supply and the impact it has on their lives.
The petitioners are hoping to get more affidavits from other affected communities including old age homes that are nearby. Asked about reasons for the constant blackouts in Primrose, the Ekurhuleni Municipality’s spokesperson, Zweli Dlamini, said the unscheduled electricity outages recently experienced could be attributed to various factors, saying there was an Eskom cable fault that took Eskom technicians several days to repair.
“There is overloading of circuits by members of the community. Illegal connections from informal settlements to City of Ekurhuleni infrastructure lead to unplanned interruptions and ongoing load shedding. Load shedding is also contributing to infrastructure breakdown and provides an opportunity for thieves and vandals to attack infrastructure,” Dlamini said.
A resident, who opted to remain anonymous, said: “There is a massive problem in Ekurhuleni. The infrastructure is ailing and there is no attempt to upgrade them.
“We already know that when we have load shedding on a Friday, we will only be restored the following Monday. Our food goes off, we can’t wash our dirty laundry to be ready for the following week, and then our water goes off, too. This is because the pump in our area is run on a generator when there is no power.”
Another resident said: “It doesn’t matter how much we yell and swear at the councillors. We know that they have no power here. Literally. I don’t understand why we vote for them so they can be our voice in the council. But actually, they are just as powerless as we are.”
One frustrated resident did not mince his words and said: “The people in this area are gatvol. We have been without power more times than we can count. We are not saying we don’t want load shedding. We know that the grid needs to be stable. But here, we are not load shed, blackouts are a way of life. There is no will to fix the problem.”
Despite the communities experiencing daily blackouts, Dlamini said the metro had standby teams available after hours and over weekends.
“The standby team is attending to load shedding as well as other service queries logged. Load shedding is done at primary substation level. It is unfortunate that some secondary substations or mini subs trip after restoring supply.
“The restoration time after load shedding is also influenced by the demand on the network. High demand will require gradual restoration of supply to avoid overload trips and damage to distribution equipment. This process may take up to two hours, therefore we urge customers to switch off non-essential appliances when power gets restored,” he said.
Dlamini said residents could log a call if the supply had not returned after two hours from the time that load shedding for the block ended.
Detailing the municipality’s plan to end the residents’ woes, Dlamini said the generation capacity shortage of Eskom would be addressed in the long term by bringing on board Independent Power Providers who could supply additional capacity to the City.
“The City and our customers are all suffering financial losses as a result of the national energy crisis, but we are participating with load shedding requirements to avoid a total collapse of the national grid.
“Such a collapse will be far more disastrous than most people may realise. We continue to repair and maintain infrastructure and are working with the SAPS and other law enforcement agencies to combat infrastructure crime,” Dlamini said.
He acknowledged that during load shedding there were increased cases of crime in the affected areas, saying the City was well aware of the increase in crime.
“Our infrastructure is attacked and even our employees and contractors have become victims of crime while performing duties. Our staff leave the safety of their homes to be attacked by criminal elements while serving our communities.
“The City has raised it internally with our Ekurhuleni metro police department as well as with the SAPS and external stakeholders in the provincial and national government spheres.
“Just recently an employee was shot and injured while responding to an outage in Dayen Glen, Boksburg,” Dlamini said.