News | South Africa | Load Shedding
People will tolerate a lot of inconvenience, even hardship, if communication is clear and meaningful. Communication is Johannesburg’s big weakness, underlying many service delivery failures.
Residents would be happier if for each problem, these questions were answered: What’s the explanation? What’s the plan? When can we expect resolution?
The city has more than enough paid communication staff.
Most of them haven’t a clue what’s happening. And the last thing on their minds is to send out crisp messages keeping residents informed.
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Do you know why there are so many potholes, what the plan is or when they will be fixed? Do you know why long grass, weeds and mess proliferate, what the plan is, or when we can expect a tidy city?
Two-hour load shedding instead of four hours is in the news.
Eskom and City Power each issued contradictory, incomplete messages on Monday, leaving residents and their own staff in the dark.
When information is scarce, residents look to ward councillors, who scramble to find light in the darkness of Joburg communications.
For example, block 2A power was supposed to be restored after 11pm on Monday, in accordance with the advertised suspension of load shedding.
Eskom notices were distributed, including on a regional City Power load shedding group for councillors.
After 11.15am I enquired whether anyone was available to switch on 2A.
The response 10 minutes later: “Eskom never informed our Control Centre about the change we will escalate to their Control Centre management.”
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Whisky Tango Foxtrot! Communication, communication, communication. Eskom and City Power were not communicating about when to switch on and off.
Power was restored 20 minutes later. I wonder how long we would have waited if there hadn’t been a wake-up call.
Thousands of residents wait patiently for power, as per official notices, while the folks controlling the switches have wrong information.
Eish. Two-hour power outages are bad news for Joburg. The ageing infrastructure was not designed for frequent switching on and off.
On the four-hour schedule, every time City Power switches back on after load shedding, some areas remain off, perhaps for 18 hours or more.
We see this on WhatsApp groups. A substation explodes, a breaker trips, cables burn or are stolen by thieves making use of “off” time.
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Residents seek explanations, which are scarce.
Overworked, short-staffed depots, constrained also by Covid-19 infections and regulations, may not respond at all.
Sometimes we are grateful that an escalated query is “noted”. But residents rightfully expect more.
During a prolonged weekend outage I contacted the MMC, who was responsive. Communications staff do not seem plugged into these loops.
City Power and Eskom, whatever your plans, please fine-tune and target your communication.
Don’t leave us doubly in the dark. Let there be light.
Martin Williams, DA councillor and former editor of The Citizen.
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