Londiwe Xulu
3 minute read
11 Jul 2022

Residents resist uMngeni audits

Londiwe Xulu

At least 150 houses in Mpophomeni Township have been without electricity since Tuesday after a transformer exploded.

The R617 near Mpophomeni was blocked by protesting residents from Saturday. They were protesting against uMngeni Municipality's electricity meter audit in their houses.

Residents currently without electricity in Mpophomeni, outside Howick, are most likely to remain in the dark unless they agree to a municipal meter audit.

At least 150 houses in the Korea and Japan sections of Mpophomeni Township have been without electricity since Tuesday after a transformer exploded.

The mayor of uMngeni Municipality, Chris Pappas, said some of the residents attempted to fix the transformer but that had caused more damage to it.

He said efforts were made to restore the area that was not undergoing a meter audit but residents were blocking the electricians.

He added there is a transformer and electricians available but the electricity will only be restored once a meter audit has been conducted.

Pappas said the municipality started with meter audits and disconnecting those who had illegally connected themselves or tampered with electricity meters in the area.

He said residents then threatened technicians with violence, chased them away and also took their equipment.

According to Pappas, on Saturday a municipal contractor’s vehicle was damaged and his employees were also held hostage while they were trying to repair the electricity infrastructure.

A video posted by Pappas on his Facebook page showed the vehicle with broken windscreen, side mirrors and windows. He said the staff also suffered shock from the incident.

A group of residents blocked the R617 demanding their electricity be restored and for Pappas to address them.

Police were called but motorists were still unable to access the blocked road which caused a traffic jam.

We are not going to entertain the protest; it’s illegal and we don’t respond to illegal protests. If they want to engage with us, they must go to their elected ward councillors and ward committee members.

“Like Eskom, we are only restoring electricity to high loss areas once the residents allow us to do meter audits which we are entitled to do. We will only fix the transformer once we have managed to access the majority of residents in the area to audit their meters,” said Pappas.

One of the Mpophomeni residents, who asked not to be named, believes the protest was more political than about electricity.

“The fact that my ward is an ANC-led ward in a DA municipality is also a problem. When the mayor wanted to speak to people about the indigent list, he was blocked. It’s like someone is trying to make this place ungovernable,” said the resident.

He said even though people can register for the free electricity units, people will continue to steal because many do not have money to pay for municipal services.

Other residents said the protest will continue until the mayor addresses them and restores their electricity.

Ward 11 councillor, Thulani Mthalane, said he was called by residents on Saturday who told him they wanted electricity to be restored.

“On the other hand, the municipality wants to do meter audits. We tried to speak to the residents as councillors but they said they wanted the mayor to address them. At this stage, we heard he didn’t want to address them,” said Mthalane.

Motorists and residents were warned the protest might continue today.