The following statement is a shortened version of a speech that was delivered today by DA Germiston Constituency Head, Michele Clarke MP, Kempvale Constituency Head, Mike Waters MP, Springs, Nigel and Brakpan Constituency Head, Ashor Sarupen MP, KwaThema and Duduza Constituency Head, Ghaleb Cachalia MP and Shadow MMC on Water, Sanitation and Energy in the Ekurhuleni metro, Derek Thomson Cllr during a digital press briefing on the ongoing power outages in Ekurhuleni.

A crisis that started many years ago at the ANC-led City of Ekurhuleni has reached breaking point with persistent electricity outages affecting areas all the way from Nigel to Germiston, leaving residents to freeze in the dark for prolonged periods.

The Ekurhuleni metro, by its own admissions, suffers more than 1500 unplanned outages a day, overwhelming its limited technical staff and leaving whole areas and sometimes whole towns without power for days on end.

On Friday alone, much of Daveyton was subjected to a devastatingly disruptive power outage.

In February, a substation burnt to the ground after years of warnings to the City about its state of disrepair, leaving all of the factories in New Era, Springs without power for weeks.

In the industrial hub of Wadeville in Germiston, persistent outages over the past year have brought production to a halt, making it impossible for workers to do their jobs.

Kempton Park has also been subjected to power outages for years, and last June a fire at the Glen Marais substation resulted in a 6 day outage, while power outages are a weekly occurrence in Ward 92.

Whereas in Germiston, large swathes were without power in early June after the staff went on a go-slow and switched off areas as a result of the metros failure to pay its overtime bills.

Further underlying factors unearthed by the Democratic Alliance (DA) include poor contractor management, winning bidders subcontracting out their work in violation of the law, electricity substations that are in a critical condition from not being upgraded nor maintained and area managers who rarely go out on site to assist their teams.

Problems also stem from underlying issues like underspending of budgets on priority repair and maintenance work, no monitoring system for overtime work done, poor HR systems to manage non-performing employees, and major electricity cables that are not repaired years after being logged as defective.

The City of Ekurhuleni’s energy staff are stretched thinly, and having to work overtime constantly to attend to its ailing power grid.

The City also has a bloated management structure at the expense of service delivery.

Residents are being taxed heavily but staff is not hired to fulfill the municipality’s constitutional obligations.

The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) estimates that municipalities on average spend 10% of their salary budgets on staff for energy repairs, maintenance and reticulation, but Ekurhuleni spends just 3,7% on this critical function and constitutional obligation.

The City of Ekurhuleni recently admitted in Parliament to having been engaged in load shedding practices despite receiving sufficient supply from Eskom.

In some instances the DA has established that the claims of cable theft by the metro are used as a cover up for the fact that there has been a lack of maintenance on high-voltage cables.

Every hour of outage in the City of Ekurhuleni is estimated to cost R1,6-billion in lost economic output and hundreds of thousands of jobs are being placed at risk by a municipality that is failing to meet its constitutional obligations.

In order to address this crisis, the DA proposes that:

  •  The standby team schedule for energy outages be shared on a weekly basis to all councillors.
  • There should be rapid improvement of communication on outages, such as estimated restore times being communicated within 4 hours of the outage being reported.
  • The same communication should be shared with the call centre management and on social media.
  • A special task team should be convened, inclusive of national government departments to investigate properties that are overloading the network, because of overcrowding and illegal connections.
  • In order to assist with the illegal connections, the city should request assistance from the police and army to protect officials, city and private property. The Metro should also investigate solutions to   provide electricity or alternative energy sources to areas with illegal connections.
  • All vacant posts should be filled in the energy reticulation department with an active shift-rotation system. This will reduce the amount of overtime required by the department and it will be a more effective way to spend the energy budget.
  •  A schedule should be published for energy rotational load shedding to allow businesses and residents to plan in advance.
  • The metro should share the budget and accurate progress reports on all projects for energy infrastructure to date and allow regular, in-person oversight visits to projects by councillors.

Considering that the City of Ekurhuleni is the industrial heartland of Gauteng, thousands of jobs are being placed at risk by a municipality that is failing to meet its constitutional obligations.

When Eskom reintroduces load shedding to Gauteng, it will further exacerbate Ekurhuleni’s pending economic collapse.

The DA calls on the residents of Ekurhuleni to support its “Take Back Your Power campaign” by signing the below petition to pressurise the ANC-led City of Ekurhuleni to deliver a more acceptable electricity service to its residents.

Please follow this link to view and sign the petition:

https://petitions.da.org.za/p/takebackyourpower