Task team formed to tackle power woes

Councillor Craig Miller with members of the Hilton Ratepayers association meeting

The emergency meeting was organised by ward councillor Craig Millar and the Hilton Ratepayers Association.
The evening saw the floor being opened to the community, which packed the hall, many of whom offered suggestions to deal with the issues.
A memorandum was drawn up based on suggestions at the meeting and handed over to the municipality on Friday – despite being turned down by the Council to hold a protest march to the City hall.
Millar and fellow councilor Theresa Duggan then lobbied the Legislature to get municipal officials to heed their calls for effective service delivery.
Demands listed in the memorandum included the urgent restoration of power to affected areas, regular communication of the problems, real time updates via elected representatives and the removal of the electricity supply license from Msunduzi Municipality and facilitation of the take-over by Eskom.
Millar said the list of demands addressed the lack of a formalised structure of communication between the uMgeni and Msunduzi municipalities and the community.
“Msunduzi gives us the power but they don’t give us reports. So we don’t know how much they are spending on the electricity infrastructure. That does not allow us to make plans,” he said.

Also read: City blackout – Mayor apologises, says saboteurs will be arrested
Earlier at the meeting, resident Mduduzi Mjwara said they needed to establish if the power woes that plagued the Hilton area were an isolated case, or whether they were countrywide.
“If it’s not an isolated case, we are in for a big challenge. I hate to say it but if we are going to be polite and calm, we will need to be polite and calm for the next 10 years,” he said.
And a fiery resident who identified himself only as Tony from Winterskloof said the community needed to unite as everyone was in the “same boat”.
Another gentleman, a former councillor, suggested residents pressurise the municipality regarding rebates for the MCB (mini circuit breaker) charge on electricity. “Residents are paying for both an MCB charge and a basic monthly charge on their electricity bill. Msunduzi is making a huge profit from this cash cow,” he said.
One woman said trying to get information from Msunduzi municipality was a nightmare. “They are very good at hiding information. The task team should investigate if they are compliant with everything. I’m sure they aren’t,” she said. “I know for a fact that the electricity department is running with barely any staff.”
Resident Cynthia Straus said in the Free State where she came from most municipalities had moved away from municipal electricity supply and instead dealt directly with Eskom.

Also read: Blackout – Enough is Enough
The evening’s attendees were all in agreement that they needed to start negations with Eskom. “I know that it’s hugely expensive for Eskom to take over the shambolic infrastructure here but maybe the second step we should take is to look at renewable energy,” said another.
Laurie, resident of Garlington estate, said five years ago he tried to cut ties with the municipality but the municipality would have none of it. “We will have to take the municipality to court to force it to let us go as they are not meeting their side of the bargain,” he said.
Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Commerce CEO Melanie Veness, who attended the gathering as an observer, said: “We are very concerned as this goes against offering a conducive environment in which businesses can thrive – or to attract new business.” It also puts a dampener on efforts to fend off inequality associated with joblessness and poverty.

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