Even though the South African government is said to have scored large sums of money from the BRICS nations partners, the Chinese in particular, in solving power challenges, locals are not chuffed. If anything, they decry lack of leadership. One such community is in Germiston. Residents here experience a week-long power cut off every month due to cable theft. As they face this life threatening ordeal, they say their municipality remains indifferent leaving them to fend for themselves.

By Mbali Mthembu

As electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, grinned from ear-to-ear signing agreements with  eight Chinese power companies on Wednesday to help South Africa solve its energy crisis, South Africans remain powerless victims of interminable power crisis.  

The Daily Maverick quotes Ramokgopa speaking at the signing ceremony on the side lines of the BRICS Summit in Sandton on Wednesday, as saying “the deal with the Chinese companies underscores the deepening of South Africa-Chinese cooperation in the energy sector. The eight companies have technology that can help Eskom to reduce emissions while improving performance at its coal-fired power plants.”

The Chinese government is reported to have donated R167-million in emergency power equipment and made available a grant of about R500-million as developmental assistance, to help South Africa out of its energy impasse. 

Residents of large parts of Germiston in the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan, did not celebrate. For them it was yet another day in their a daily life and death struggle. They experienced a week-long power outage.

This has been wreaking havoc in residents daily lives and has sparked panic and despair in the business. They fear that their enterprises will collapse.

These long power outages are caused by vandalism of power infrastructure according to the City of Ekurhuleni. The municipality has blamed illegal mining activity near one of its substation, next to Makause informal settlement.

The community says this is a monthly occurrence.  Every month they are guaranteed a week without power. Whilst accepting council’s illegal miners explanation, residents also believe that the municipality has the responsibility to address the root causes of the problem.

Medical practitioner Dr. CJ Gilmer told The Telegram that  running his business without electricity has been a mayhem, he was seriously considering closing down.  

“It is hard to conduct surgical emergency and ensure that operation amenities such as cooling, and ventilation are running due to these constant outages. In addition, we have clients who depend on our service, and we are trying to survive and make sure we don’t lose them by depending on backup solar power, but it is still difficult,” said Gilmer.

Timothy Brooks, owner of Dynamic Panel Beaters, said the power outages are the cause of many business closures in the Germiston area.

“Machinery like tyre machines and compressors cannot operate during the power cuts which means we are paying staff who spend the entire day with no work. And during the weeks-long power cuts the alarms and electric fence batteries do not work for prolonged periods, putting the business at risk of burglary and some of the customer’s cars stay in until they are completely fixed,” said Brooks.

Funeral parlour manager, Lesedi Bowles, says the outages have led to some corpses being partially decomposed due to the refrigerator not being cold enough.

“Despite extra measures we have taken in case of power outages it has become increasingly costly to maintain the parlour’s morgue and our customers are not happy. There are talks of shutting down the business which has been operating for nearly 10 years,” said Bowles.

Residents took to the streets last Friday to complain to the Ekurhuleni metro municipality about the constant power outages. The residents handed over a memorandum of grievances on the energy crisis.

Vanessa Shozi who has been a resident in the area for the past 15 years, stated that power outages have increased in the past three years.

“The outages occur close to each other every month, leaving us without power for days. And the municipality fails to provide us with proper feedback and tells us that they do not have standby technicians to work after hours. I constantly must throw away food not forgetting how high the food prices are, but the municipality doesn’t care,” said Shozi.

Ekurhuleni municipality spokesperson Zweli Dlamini said outages are dealt with as and when they occur and cable theft was the biggest problem. He said the municipality also experienced system failures.

Responding to residents protest and if the municipality would respond, a non-committal  Dlamini said the municipality had a process for handling memorandums.

“This memorandum will go through to the petitions committee and each department will be directed to deal with their issues and report back to the committee on the progress, which shall be shared with the petitioners,” Dlamini said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *