Loadshedding “unavoidable” after substation blows, says mayor

Power restored in Pietermaritzburg community after protesters bring area to standstill over five-day blackout

By Nompendulo Ngubane

27 July 2020

Ward 24 residents in Pietermaritzburg block roads, demanding that their electricity be restored immediately. The power which has been off since Thursday, was restored by 4:30pm on Monday. Photo: Nompendulo Ngubane

Scores of protesters brought parts of Ward 24 in Pietermaritzburg to standstill on Monday over ongoing electricity outages in the area.

The community has been without electricity since last Thursday, say residents. They want the Msunduzi Municipality to restore power to their homes immediately.

On Monday, roads leading to different communities were blockaded with trees, burning tyres, stones and garbage.

Msunduzi Municipality Mayor Mzi Thebolla, who came to address protesters, said that the blackout follows an explosion at a nearby substation.

“Our food is rotten in our fridges … We feel neglected by the municipality on the issue of electricity,” shouted resident Sifiso Ngubane.

“We want the immediate restoration of electricity today. Since last Thursday our area has been dark. This is a suburban area and we pay our rates. We are living in difficult times and can’t afford throwing food away,” said Ngubane.

Areas affected by the blackout include Grange, Bisley and Richmond Crest, said Bongiwe Xulu.

She said, “What angers us is that areas close to us like Southlands, Buffer and Richpark have electricity. They don’t have electricity problems. They have load shedding for a couple of hours only. We are supplied electricity by the same substation. How come their area has electricity?” asked Xulu.

Accompanied by the police, Thebolla told the residents that plans are underway to restore electricity by nightfall on Monday.

“Our technical team is busy fixing the substation that exploded on Thursday. We don’t know the cause of the explosion. I can assure residents that today you will have your electricity,” said Thebolla.

He also explained that intermittent load shedding would be unavoidable due to the heavy demand for electricity.

“There will be load shedding. The plan is to rotate electricity supply while the substation is being [fixed]. We are requesting that the community open the roads so that the people who are here to assist are able to access the roads,” said Thebolla.

The power was restored by 4:30pm on Monday.