A number of Alberton businesses are threatening to leave the area after being in the dark and powerless for months on end which is costing them fortunes.
This was confirmed in a meeting that consisted of Alberton councillors, representatives for business owners and entrepreneurs who have had first-hand experience with electricity outages.
Some of these businesses are based in Alrode South and a couple of Alberton North factories.
According to Carol Fourie, representing Arrow Branding and Arrow-Chem, Alrode South businesses, power outages have affected them severely.
“In one of our companies, we work with big machinery which costs millions to fix. When the power goes off, the machines jam and everything stops. We lose the entire print and we have to reprint at our own costs and the machines are buggered every time there’s an outage,” she said.
Fourie said outages cost them a lot of money and affect their workflow, as a result leaving their clients with no choice but to go to other companies.
She said that the City of Ekurhuleni’s customer care centre lacks proper communication. While Cathy Austen, of Creamers Lubrication Products, said these power outages force them to spend money from their pockets.
“Even if there’s an outage, we pay our staff because we believe they come first. We are so tired of this that all we do is look for alternatives. I’m thinking how we are going to move all these machines out of there and where are we going to go to, that’s our plan,” she said.
Loss of income for CoE too
DA MP Mike Waters highlighted that if businesses leave Alberton, this will have a rippling effect on the municipality.
“This will mean that metro will lose out on rates, such as property tax, electricity and water because that’s where it makes a lot of money from.
“Most of the City’s money is generated from taxes paid by businesses and we have a lot of businesses in Ekurhuleni. We are an industrial hub. Local residents will also lose their jobs,” he said.
He said if the focus is not put on to the business industry, the City will then collapse since that is the municipality’s bulk revenue.
Ward 94 councillor Marina van Wyk reiterated that the energy department is failing councillors by not providing information.
“Residents get upset if there’s an outage while we councillors have our hands tied simply because we have no clue what is happening. It is the job of the City to communicate to residents and further go into the SMS system and alert residents about outages,” she said.
Ward 37 councillor Tiaan Kotzé said he sits with the exact situation, with Alberton North businesses also threatening to move.
“There’s also been an increase of crime, where air cons are being stolen from the outside of factory buildings. I also have Germiston that is also affected with electricity outages as part of my ward,” he said.
Alberton councillors collectively demanded that the CoE’s executive mayor takes immediate action on electricity outages.
The City’s spokesperson Themba Gadebe said they realised the devastating effect of power outages on businesses, especially in light of the current pandemic.
“The biggest contributor to recent outages in the Alberton area is third party interference. We recently had to deal with increasing number of damaged cables. Third parties damaged cables in Alberton North, Raceview, New Redruth, Verwoerd Park, Florentia and surrounding areas,” he said.
He also stated that vehicle accidents also led to outages as well as theft and vandalism.
“Trucks bumping overhead line supporting poles and vehicles driving into mini-subs and metering kiosks caused outages. We had incidents of theft and attempted theft on 33 kilovolts cables that affected large parts of Alberton and Thokoza,” said Gadebe.
In terms of lodging a claim against CoE, he assured that the City had a risk and insurance section located in Benoni.
“They may complete the public liability claim form and submit, with relevant supporting documents, to the finance department at 68 Woburn Avenue in Benoni. The City’s insurance assessor will decide on the merits of a claim,” he said.
He also said businesses moving away from CoE may have a weakening effect on the socio-economic status of the City and residents.
“It must be noted that no electricity distributor anywhere in the world can guarantee uninterrupted supply of electricity at all times and that all metros and municipalities are facing similar challenges in terms of third party interference on the electrical network,” said Gadebe.
Gadebe said that criminal activities will be dealt with decisively.
“Network enhancement projects, refurbishment projects and the department’s security service provider and the EMPD Anti-Cable Theft Unit will assist in efforts to combat the criminal activity on the electricity network,” he said.
This article first appeared on Alberton Record and was republished with permission.