Crumbling infrastructure in urgent need of maintenance

WARD councillors in the Musgrave area have requested urgent meetings with the Heads of Water and Electricity regarding rolling power and water outages in Wards 31 and 25.

According to ward 31 councillor, Chris Pappas, the Musgrave, Overport, Sydenham, and Asherville areas have been subjected to rolling power and water outages over the last few months. Pappas said some roads such as Bazely Avenue in Sydenham have had as many as three burst water pipes a day, while Musgrave has experienced a major power outage at least once a week.

Old and under maintained infrastructure is the main cause of the ongoing issues faced by the Berea and Berea West area. Asbestos and iron pipes have not been replaced and are bursting at an increasing rate. Electrical infrastructure such as cables and substations have not been replaced and are buckling under increased usage,” he said.

In a telephone conversation with a senior official from the Electricity Department, Pappas said he was shocked to hear the distress of the municipal official who said that the sad reality was that infrastructure was only replaced when it broke or burnt out.

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“The city is wasting millions of Rands on events such as the Essence Festival while the city infrastructure crumbles. There needs to be a shift in focus by the municipality before the city power grid collapses. Furthermore, the city paid Umgeni water more than R700 million for wasted water in the last financial year. This is a disastrous reflection on how the city is being run,” he said.

Pappas said businesses, hospitals and old age homes were all being affected. “Residents are losing food in their fridges when the power goes out. There are also a number of households in the ward where families have loved ones reliant on medical equipment that relies on electricity. Water outages are affecting businesses, religious organisations and homes in general,” he said.

Vanessa Clouston, chief operating officer of Essenwood Residential Home which accommodates more than 100 elderly women, said the home has been affected by a number of power outages over the past month. She said while they were sympathetic to outages that occurred occasionally, they were concerned about the lack of urgency on the part of the municipality to restore electricity to the area during the period 31 December to 2 January.

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“We were informed that there were no standby teams on public holidays when we phoned to report the matter. This made operating an old age home very difficult.

The lift could not operate making it hard for immobile residents to move around the home, there was no hot water and no lighting at night. Our emergency backup lighting only lasts for a few hours, not days, and this is difficult for the elderly whose eyesight is not very good. We could not do the laundry, and we wash 500kg of laundry daily. As we run a frail care unit, the linen must be washed in hot water to kill all germs to prevent spreading of contamination,” she said.

Clouston said there was also no backup power for the fridges which store certain medications, the central kitchen was without power making storage of food difficult and it was also difficult to prepare the meals for the residents.

“Call buttons which allow residents to buzz the clinic for assistance did not work, our telephone system did not work and our security system did not work. The average age of our residents is in the 80s, and the majority of our residents reside in assisted living and frail care. These are very vulnerable members of society. It is hoped that the municipality can make attending to outages in areas where there are old age homes a priority at all times,” she said.

Councillor Pappas said reports from officials inside the Electricity Department had raised concerns over the possible failure of the city’s power grid.

Pappas and ward 25 councillor Hassan Haniif have requested urgent meetings with the Heads of Water and Electricity and have also sent through lists of roads that are most frequently affected and have asked that the city urgently look into replacing old infrastructure.

“It is unacceptable that people diligently pay their rates and bills but the infrastructure to supply services are not replaced and maintained. The money is there to make eThekwini clean, safe, and to get the infrastructure working,” said Pappas.

Information you can use

RESIDENTS who need to claim for damages or loss from the electricity department can contact:

Sean Francis

031 311 9328

[email protected]

When outages occur residents must report these to the relevant department. Coucillors and officials need a reference number to be able to attend.

Water-related issues: 080 131 3013

Electricity-related issues: 080 131 3111



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Lauren Walford

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