No light at the end of the tender for Eastern Cape villages

Millions have been spent on the Sivumela project and eight years later, hundreds of households are still without electricity

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Zigadini and Sivumela villagers in KwaBhaca Eastern Cape have waited for years for electrification. Photos by Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

  • The R31-million Sivumela electrification project was meant to be completed in 2017.
  • Seven villages that should have benefitted are still sitting without electricity eight years after the project started.
  • The municipality blames consulting engineers and Eskom for the delays.

Villagers from Zigadini and Sivumela have staged several protests, demanding that the municipality finish the electrification of villages in the KwaBhaca (Mount Frere) area of the Eastern Cape.

In 2014, a tender worth R31.2-million was awarded by the Mzimvubu Local Municipality for the electrification of seven villages: Zigadini, Sivumela, Maxhegwini, Luyengweni, Lower Mnyamane, Magontsini and Chwebeni. GroundUp reported in 2020 that the project had ground to a halt when the contractor abandoned the site in 2019. The project is still far from finished.

In Zigadini, which has 447 households, electricity poles went up in 2019. But only about 100 houses have meter boxes to date. Every year, the community stages a protest and the municipality sends a contractor to connect a few more houses to electricity. This happened in October 2021 and in January and August 2022, according to Zigadini community leader Sotyali Siko.

In Sivumela, which has nearly 400 households, electricity poles were installed in 2018. The contractor returned in December 2020 for two days and installed meter boxes in some houses.

Sivumela resident Pat Jali said, “What they are doing now is that each time when we stage a protest they send a contractor to install the meter boxes in a few houses around Zigadini. That will give us hope since we are the next village after Zigadini.”

Sivumela is four kilometres from Zigadini.

Ward 24 Councillor Mlungiseleli Jonase (ANC) said residents had written numerous letters to the municipality.

“Last year, residents staged a protest and the municipality promised to order the meter boxes. In June this year, they said the order has arrived. We waited [for installation] until residents staged another protest last month,” he said.

Mzimvubu Local Municipality spokesperson Nokhanyo Zembe told GroundUp in 2020 that the construction company and consulting engineers RPS Ilangabi left the site in 2019 without the consent of the municipality. She said the reason remains unclear.

The construction company claimed that RPS Ilangabi owed it R12-million for work done. Under the contract, all payments were made directly to RPS Ilangabi by the municipality. She said RPS has not been answering the municipality’s calls.

Zembe now told us that RPS had destroyed all approvals and designs which forced the municipality to start the approval process from the beginning.

Zembe also blamed Eskom for delays. She said the municipal contractor had needed Eskom’s approval for the construction of a link line between its lines and Eskom’s.

But Eskom spokesperson Pilie Gabela said, Sivumela project is solely executed by Mzimvubu Local Municipality … [and] is not dependent on Eskom for its execution.”

Zembe said, “The contractor is installing the outstanding meters and the installation in both villages will be completed by the month end [September].”

At the time of publishing, only nine more meter boxes had been installed.

We spoke to Regis Masuku of RPS Ilangabi, but he hung up before we could get clarity.

TOPICS:  Electricity

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