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By Hein Kaiser


R200m power cable ‘melting’ – Kempton Park’s costly blackout

The cable was 'installed incorrectly and is not able to manage the load it’s meant to carry', a source said.

Kempton Park residents have been left in the dark after a new mainline electricity supply cable, installed five months ago at a cost of R200 million, has either been vandalised or melted down.

Local councillor Simon Lapping said that the Ekurhuleni municipality was pulling the wool over residents’ eyes.

According to sources inside the energy department at the metro, the cable was installed incorrectly and, as such, has been unable to manage the load it was meant to carry.

“The Democratic Alliance (DA) has been reliably informed by whistle-blowers that the new 66kV cable installation was not done correctly, not in line with industry standards, and as a result, the cable was starting to melt.

“The failure of the cable is solely due to shoddy workmanship from the contractor,” said Lapping, who alleged that the service provider got the job because they are politically connected.

On the other hand, the city’s Zweli Dlamini said the cable failure was due to vandalism.

Consequently, more than 20 Kempton Park suburbs, including key industrial areas, have been placed on load rotation for an estimated seven days to facilitate repairs.

READ: Ekurhuleni power: ‘Load rotation’ implemented in these areas until 8 August

“These acts and theft and vandalism are taking us back as a city. They are common during load shedding,” said Dlamini.

“What makes the situation sadder is that our people are robbed of such an essential service during extremely cold winter days.”

The load rotation, said a resident, resulted in about nine hours without electricity every day.

Community groups are fed up and after the extensive power cuts experienced by Kempton Park residents and businesses earlier this year, Lapping said a community temperature check saw people red with anger.

“It’s almost the entire Kempton Park,” said Lapping, adding that there is no way a single act of vandalism or cable theft could cause so much damage.

“The cable was laid under a thick concrete block, underground. Why would anyone go to so much effort to dig it up and vandalise or steal the cable when there are so many other, lower-hanging fruit to consider as targets? It just does not make sense. It’s bullsh*t.”

ANC caucus leader and chief whip in Ekurhuleni, Jongisizwe Dhlabati, said the city must address the energy crisis immediately. He said the metro must be returned to stability and financial sustainability as soon as possible, and that includes the present electricity crisis.

Lapping blamed the member of the mayoral committee for water, sanitation, and energy, the EFF’s Leshaka Manamela.

“The electricity department has crashed to an all-time low as more communities are plunged into darkness. Energy depots around the city are completely dysfunctional.

“There is no leadership and it’s impossible to raise the mayor to do something. He’s out of town.”

Lapping went also referred to Ekurhuleni mayor Sivuyile Ngodwana of the Africa Independent Congress as a “lame EFF and ANC puppet”.

The DA and its coalition partners were ousted from governing the city at the end of March and an ANC-EFF coalition has been running the metro since April.

Reports indicate that cracks have formed in this marriage, too, following the failure of a DA-led coalition to keep it together.

And while the DA’s federal chair, Helen Zille, ruled out a DAANC courtship, some local councillors said such a pairing might be the only way to save Ekurhuleni from a service delivery disaster.

But while finger-pointing continues ad nauseam, residents remain in the dark.

Another local also did not buy into the vandalism or cable theft excuse, alleging it was just another means for incompetents to release themselves from accountability.

A frustrated Lapping said: “Show us the damage. Share pictures of where the cable was vandalised. Where was a charge laid against vandalism? Is there an insurance claim?

“Who was the contractor? Did they even have the necessary know-how to install the cable? “I have asked these questions, and nobody seems able to show and tell.”