Londiwe Xulu
3 minute read
7 Jul 2022

Call to probe alleged sabotage to Msunduzi’s water and electricity infrastructure

Londiwe Xulu

City reported a spike in what seemed to be deliberate interruptions of municipal services which often left communities around Msunduzi without water and electricity.

Pietermaritzburg city hall.

Opposition parties have called for Msunduzi to appoint an external investigator to probe the alleged acts of sabotage to the City’s water and electricity infrastructure.

This comes after the City reported a spike in what seemed to be deliberate interruptions of municipal services which often left communities around Msunduzi without water and electricity.

Sometimes residents experienced unexplained high or low water pressure as well as electricity dips and surges as a result of alleged interference with the City’s infrastructure.

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The matter was discussed at Wednesday’s full council meeting with some councillors saying they wanted the matter to be investigated externally.

Councillors were unanimous in expressing their concerns about the vandalism of the municipal infrastructure saying it was costing the municipality millions and deprived residents of services.

Recently, two Pietermaritzburg men, Xolani Mbeje and Mzwandile Mnyaka were sentenced to 18 months for breaking through the perimeter fence of the Retief Street Primary Substation.

The pair was found guilty of damage to municipal infrastructure and sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment each.

Mbeje and Mnyaka were arrested after they were detected by a Safe City operator breaking through the perimeter fence of the substation around 1 am on February 18.

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DA councillor, Ross Strachan, on Wednesday said they needed to know if Mbeje and Mnyaka were members of Msunduzi’s staff or were linked to the contractors who did work for the municipality.

He said the municipality needed to investigate this.

Strachan said the municipality has in the past had a sabotage crisis. He said it was either through internal staff members or contractors.

We need to try and find out if it could possibly be [prompted by their wanting] overtime or contractors trying to make extra money. It’s a serious problem that needs to be looked into.

He said this must be dealt with by launching an independent investigation into the sabotage of both water and electricity infrastructure in the city “because you can’t investigate yourself”.

… It’s costing this municipality millions and it’s known that there are people internally involved.

Strachan also proposed that council accepts the need for an independent investigation and to look for a service provider that will investigate what was happening in the municipality without any interference.

Council speaker Eunice Majola said a real investigation was needed and they should use their internal structures first.

Majola said should that investigation fail, then they’d be at liberty to take the matter further.

General manager for electricity, Ngangenkosi Mpisi, said there had been work done to mitigate the impact of theft and vandalism.

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Mpisi said they have ensured the inspection boxes on the street lights were not accessible at a normal height and they have been using aluminum instead of copper wiring for the street lights.

He added there were challenges and they were working on them.

Msunduzi’s internal audit head, Petrus Mahlaba, said it wasn’t an easy investigation and urged councillors who have information to come forward.

If you talk about sabotage, it’s an internal driven investigation. At the moment we do not have much and we are unable to prove that case. I would urge all councillors that have information or suspicions to contact me so I can make arrangements for them to meet with investigators.

Mahlambi added any information might lead to a breakthrough.

Regarding the tampering with electricity meters, the acting municipal manager, Nelisiwe Ngcobo, said the municipality had already appointed four contractors to audit meters for a period of three years.

Ngcobo said she wouldn’t unpack what the contractors would be doing but was relying on the report they would submit.

According to a prepaid meter audit progress report that was tabled at council yesterday, the need for an audit of all municipal meters will assist the electricity and finance departments in data cleaning.

Meter readers were also discovering unregistered meters while some had been tampered with.