Durban — The Democratic Alliance in eThekwini has come out guns blazing, saying that it warned the municipality about the impact of implementing load shedding on unstable electricity infrastructure.
The party made the warning in July.
DA eThekwini caucus leader Thabani Mthethwa wrote to eThekwini municipal manager Musa Mbhele, deputy city manager for trading services Sbusiso Makhanya and electricity head Maxwell Mthembu, requesting an urgent meeting following sustained electricity outages in many parts of the city as Eskom implemented stage 6 load shedding.
In the letter sent on Wednesday, Mthethwa said: “I write to you all in your capacities as the city manager, the deputy city manager and the head of department regarding widespread electricity outages outside of the scheduled load shedding. It has become very difficult for councillors to respond to frustrated members of the public every time power is not restored after load shedding.”
He requested an urgent meeting to assess the following:
- What causes these outages outside of the schedule?
- What is the plan in place to remedy the situation?
- What is being done to raise awareness regarding the above?
He said he hoped the trio would afford the matter the urgency it deserves.
On Thursday, Mthethwa said his party had been inundated with complaints from residents about what appears to be unusual load shedding hours, going on for days on end in many areas.
He said this had a negative impact on residents and businesses.
“It is abundantly clear now that eThekwini’s electricity network systems remain unstable as the city’s attempts to implement stage 6 load shedding have instead caused unintended electricity faults which have resulted in communities going on for hours without electricity,” Mthethwa said.
He said the DA had requested a meeting to get an understanding of the work done since floods occurred earlier in the year, to resolve the issue of the unstable electricity infrastructure in the city.
Mthethwa said after the April floods, the DA had warned the municipality that it must seek an exemption from load-shedding from Eskom until its electricity grid was stable enough, adding that it was “completely absurd” that people in eThekwini must be subjected to this situation.
“The inability to address the issue of failing electricity infrastructure is an impending crisis and will be disastrous for the city’s already struggling economy,” Mthethwa said.
On Tuesday evening, the municipality said it was prioritising electricity fault repairs.
In a statement, it said it was aware of numerous electricity outages throughout eThekwini.
“This is due to the prolonged load shedding. Electrical power systems are not designed for such frequent interruptions as called upon for load shedding,” the municipality said.
“As a result of load shedding, the city is experiencing more switchgear and cable failures. To reduce the risk of trip-outs, residents and businesses are reminded to switch off non-essential appliances during load shedding and switch them on in 15-minute intervals once power is restored.”
The municipality said that inclement weather conditions experienced this week had added to the current strain.
However, its technical teams were doing their best to prioritise reported faults.
“We urge communities to be patient as we work through this difficult period that the country is facing due to the national power system constraint,” the municipality said.
The municipality said members of the public could report electricity faults to the electricity WhatsApp line 076 791 2449 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
In July, days before eThekwini would be load shed again, Mthethwa said load shedding could not go ahead in eThekwini until infrastructure stability was confirmed.
Mthethwa said the DA in eThekwini had written to city manager Mbhele requesting an urgent report on repair work conducted on the municipality’s electricity infrastructure and the stability of the grid following the April floods.
The call came after Mthembu confirmed that eThekwini would experience Stage 4-5 load shedding from August 1 after a reprieve granted due to the floods.
In the letter, Mthethwa said he would like to get clarity as to how far the municipality had gone with repairs to the electricity infrastructure after the floods, and whether the electricity infrastructure and network were stable enough for the resumption of load shedding.
“I ask this because I think we all know the damage which usually occurs as a result of load shedding. I don’t think we should resume load shedding until such a time that our electricity infrastructure is stable enough. Lastly, may I request that in our next Executive committee meeting, a report regarding the stability of our electricity infrastructure and the state of readiness is tabled. I have included the mayor here as the chairperson of Exco,” the letter read.
Mthethwa said the DA did not believe that any load shedding should go ahead until the report was tabled and confirmation was received that eThekwini’s infrastructure could sustain frequent power cuts.
“Load shedding alone damages infrastructure. To load shed infrastructure that might still be unstable would cause even worse damage, which the municipality will not be able to control,” Mthethwa said.