Threats to staff leave areas in dark

Nyanga resident Thandazwab Tsali.

Threats to staff of the City of Cape Town’s electricity department have left residents of Gugulethu and surrounding areas without power for days as the outages cannot be attended to.

The City issued a statement last Thursday, April 3, condemning the threats and saying their staff are being denied entry to the area.

They said about 1 000 customers are without electricity supply and this number will continue to rise if the situation remains unresolved.

Mayoral committee member for area central, Siyabulela Mamkeli, said the problem is also affecting new electrification projects in the area that have been stopped in response to the intimidation.

But local contractors said Mr Mamkeli had overreacted and that residents and local contractors are prepared to solve the problem.

Furious local electrical contractor, Temba Mcopele, rubbished the accusation by the City, saying they never threatened the contractors but residents did.

He, however, admitted that it is not safe for the contractors to work in the townships at this point as it won’t be safe for them.

Mr Mcopele said they have advised the City how to solve the issue but it is stubborn. “I have been doing work for the City. But now I did not get a tender and that is not a problem. The problem is, we are saying let us get a piece of the cake. If you are going to work here, at least (allow subcontracting). Let us be kept busy. That is why we are up in arms and the community backs us,” he told Vukani.

He said most local contractors are compliant and qualified to do the work. He said some of the contractors who got the tender are willing to work with them but there are those who do not want to.

“Residents are angry. You must understand that people were working under our contractors and now they find themselves without jobs. There are contractors who comply but there is just one that comes from Gauteng. As for Mr Mamkeli, he does not know what he is talking about. We have submitted petitions but he could not address that now he goes to the media. Until this matter is resolved, they will not work here,” he said.

The City said it will do everything in its power to resolve this matter. It also urged all parties to work with it to ensure that services are restored. It said it will not tolerate any violence or the continued bullying tactics which are currently affecting their customers.

While the two elephants fight, the grass suffers. Families living in the hostels of Gxalaba and Hlazo Village, Nyanga, said lack of electricity have made their homes uninhabitable. Some have been without electricity for two weeks and others for a week so far.

The electricity has returned a few times sporadically, the surge causing damage to appliances such as refrigerators and music systems.

The hostels are located just behind KTC and not far from Gugulethu.

Resident Thandazwa Tsali said the lack of power has caused a stir in her area and affected all their lives.

She said those who had electricty had to help others. However, the challenge was that some people go to work very early.

“People are trying to help each other but we all know this cannot be for long. The problem is that you can cook meat in my house while I will be eating porridge with water. It is not fair. The lack of electricity is messing with us. We cannot do simple things like charging phones. This is ridiculous.”

She complained that many have also lost their food because of no refrigeration.

“This on and off of electricity has been costly to some people. Most people have lost refrigerators and other electrical appliances.”

All Ms Tsali hopes for is to have the power back at her home.