Ntombizethu Ngcobo
Journalist
4 minute read
27 Jun 2022
06:03

Msunduzi officials ‘snub’ Northdale residents

Ntombizethu Ngcobo

The absence of Msunduzi officials at a meeting to address the rejected insurance claims, relating to December’s prolonged power outage, sparked anger among Northern areas’ residents.

The absence of Msunduzi officials at a meeting to address the rejected insurance claims, relating to December’s prolonged power outage, sparked anger among Northern areas’ residents.

There was no sign of Msunduzi officials to explain the reason for the residents’ claims regarding compensation for their rotten food and damaged appliances being rejected, at Saturday’s meeting.

The meeting was arranged by the local ward councillor, Lucky Naicker.

Only two officials from the finance department, under the indigent applications unit, arrived and as a result of the lack of municipal management attendance, the meeting was called off.

According to Naicker, the Northdale substation that blew up in December, resulted in a total of 1 313 residents being left with no power for over a week — resulting in food going off as well as appliances and equipment being damaged. Naicker said the total cost of damages was estimated to be around R7,3 million. He added that the municipality sent letters directly to individual residents stating that the claims, submitted to Guardrisk insurance company, were unsuccessful.

One of the reasons listed for the claims being rejected was that the municipality could not be held accountable for the storm that led to the substation blowing up.

Naicker questioned: 

“The municipality is using the storm as an excuse. When the substation blew up, there was no rain. If the storm was the reason, why does the municipality not have insurance to cover natural disasters like this?”

He said the municipality also did not put out a statement to say how they intended challenging the insurance company. “That alone tells you there is a bigger story. There’s more to this than meets the eye. A storm alone cannot blow up a substation. This is paramount to them not having maintained the substations in 27 years. The problem is the lack of maintenance of infrastructure in our area, especially the substations.”

Naicker said he suspected that there was something sinister behind the rejection of the claims. “They sent the rejection letters to individual claimants. They didn’t even deal with the councillors. We are asking ourselves, why did the municipality deal with the residents and not see the councillors first? We could have called the municipal officials to come and explain to the residents the reasoning behind it.”

He added that on Saturday, not even a single official was sent to explain the reason behind the rejected claims.

He said: 

“That tells us that our residents are being taken for granted and being put on the back burner. The municipality needs to come to the party and pay these residents. We are aware that they are under administration and they don’t have money, but they need to use the money from the disaster fund.”

A resident, who asked not to be named, called the situation “unfair”.

“We need to be compensated for our losses. Besides financial losses, what about the stress and trauma we went through? This damage was not caused by the storm. The power outages occurred many hours after the storm. The municipality needs to go back to the insurance company and explain the real reasons for the outages and compensate us for our loss,” said a resident.

Another resident who spoke after the failed meeting, told The Witness that they felt disrespected by the city’s officials. 

The resident said: 

“In informal settlements, when the electricity is cut, the residents burn tyres and the power gets connected. Some of those people don’t pay for the electricity. [The municipality] is taking advantage of us because they think we are weak.”

Msunduzi responds

Msunduzi spokesperson Ntobeko Mkhize said the Municipality sympathised with the affected residents on this matter. Mkhize said unfortunately, it was beyond the control of the municipality as the process was handled by an insurance company.

“Written responses were sent to the claimants and the municipality’s offices are open for those who may wish to make further inquires on the outcome of their claims.

“The bulk of the budget that was adopted by council recently will be directed to the maintenance of the City’s infrastructure. A lot of work has been done already towards the electricity infrastructure,” said Mkhize.