City blackout – Mayor apologises, says saboteurs will be arrested

Msunduzi Mayor Themba Njilo about to address city electricity crisis

The city also revealed that contractors hired to undertake repairs were attacked supposedly by ‘saboteurs’ who damaged the grid. Apart from the resultant blackout some communities faced the double challenge of not having water, as supply to these areas is dependent on electricity-driven pumps.

Below is an edited statement issued by City Hall on behalf of Mayor Themba Njilo.

“Since last Wednesday, Msunduzi municipality has seen some of the worst interruptions in the provision of electricity and water in living memory that have put an enormous pressure on our communities…The service interruptions have caused untold damage and suffering to many communities and businesses.

“These interruptions are believed to be acts of sabotage and while the reason for them is as yet unknown to the municipality, we have enlisted the services of the law enforcement agencies to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
“What we have seen at Msunduzi has amounted to treason whereby a democratically elected local government was being undermined by wilful individuals while entire communities and businesses were held hostage. There are important leads being followed in this regard and arrests are imminent.
“In addition to pursuing the perpetrators, we are also hard at working towards restoring all municipal services to their pre-crisis levels.
“The damage to electrical wiring and other public infrastructure has been considerable but we are working round the clock to ensure that all key connections are restored and to date we have been able to restore power back to many areas that were affected.
“To boost these efforts, we are deploying private security personnel to ensure that none of our hard work is easily reversed by saboteurs. There have been incidents where private contractors who were assigned to fix the power problems were attacked and intimidated and now we are compelled to engage in extraordinary measures to mitigate the further inconvenience to our residents.

Also read : Blackout – Enough is Enough

“This is a costly exercise but it is absolutely necessary to ensure that our supply of electricity and water – on which electrical blackouts have had a knock-on effect since water pumps are operated by electricity – reaches every community within Msunduzi that relies on our services.
“As we do this, we also express our unreserved apology to all residents within Msunduzi. We apologise sincerely for all the inconvenience experienced by private individuals, businesses and institutions.
“As in every crisis, there lies a hidden opportunity, this crisis has exposed some serious shortcomings in our municipality’s ability to communicate swiftly and respond effectively. In order to address these concerns, we will be overhauling our call centre to ensure that it can cope with high call volumes and that the municipality is able to provide the most recent information to communities by whatever means necessary.We also apologise for the inadequate communication.

Also read: Power grid will get us through winter, says Mayor

What we have seen at Msunduzi over the past few days has been pure anarchy. As a responsible and caring local government, we cannot and will not condone it. We continue to battle this challenge which also has the hallmarks of inside hands that at this stage we cannot go into detail about.
“We are depoliticising this institution so that officials can do their professional work and stop hiding behind political party flags when they have to account for non-performance. The path to consequence management is irreversible.
“We appeal to the public, business community and stakeholders to come forward with any information that may lead to arrests of perpetrators but we urge everyone to exercise due care in doing so as they may be dealing with dangerous individuals or syndicates.
This is a call to arms for us to unite in making our municipality the best model of service delivery…this is a time to put the Msunduzi customer and ratepayers first. Workers will have to do what they are employed to , on time and in a Batho-Pele manner.
“Looking ahead, we pledge to learn from the lessons of the past few days to ensure that Msunduzi municipality can provide seamless municipal services to all those who rely on them.
We also pledge to go back to the drawing board in respect of some key municipal functions such as communication and rapid response to improve our performance in future,” said Mayor Themba Njilo in the statement.

Maritzburg sun reporter

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