uMngeni protesters block road after municipality refuses to fix their power

Residents were in the dark for four days before taking to the streets

By Joseph Bracken

8 February 2024

Protesters blocked the road on Thursday complaining about an electricity cut. Photo: Joseph Bracken

Residents of Japan section in Mpophomeni in the uMngeni Municipality took to the streets in the early hours of Thursday morning, blocking Mandela Drive.

They said they were protesting because their electricity had been out for four days and the municipality was refusing to fix the issue. The electricity went out on Sunday after the transformer that fed the area blew up. The actual cause of the transformer failure is not known, but residents say it was caused by a lightning strike.

Chris Pappas (DA), the mayor of uMngeni, said the municipality was refusing to replace the transformer because residents were not allowing an electricity meter audit to be completed. “They do not want the audits because they will have their electricity disconnected. They will have to pay a reconnection fee as well as a fine.”

The municipality had found that more than 90% of people in the area were illegally connected to the grid. As of yesterday, the audit was 98% complete.

Residents told GroundUp that their food had gone bad due to lack of refrigeration, their children could not do homework in the dark, and they could not cook food. Some said they were struggling to find jobs and could not afford to pay for electricity. Others said that they do pay and they felt as though they were being unfairly punished.

UMngeni municipality offers 200 kilowatt hours of free electricity to residents who cannot afford to pay, more than any other municipality in the province, said Pappas. The residents just need to register for this service, he added.

Residents said they had not been warned that their transformer would not be replaced until the audit was completed by the municipality. But Pappas denied this.

At 2pm the road was cleared and opened, and the community agreed to let the audit continue. A new transformer will be installed once the audit is completed, said Pappas.