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Furious Komani Residents Take to The Streets Over Constant Power Outages

In the latest spate of electricity challenges, the Komani community took to the streets on Tuesday to protest power outages caused by the damaged Queendustria transformer which was struck by lightning on Friday 22 January.

After the power went out on Friday, Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality (EMLM) reported that the damage needed to be assessed, and that they could not do so on that day. On Saturday they reported that the transformer had been assessed, and that it could still be used but needed to be reconditioned by an external specialist as they do have one in their employ.

On Monday 25 January the municipality said they had found a Johannesburg based specialist, and promised that they would be on site by midday on the 26th. By 16:00 on Tuesday the specialist was still not in Komani.

This agitated community members as they were not getting any concrete communication from the municipality except for Facebook posts, which they could no longer access due to most of their mobile devices also being out of power. Ward councillors and the Mayor were nowhere to be seen.

Scenes from the Komani Residents’ Power Outage Protest

“The only updates we were provided were from the communications department and the control room. I called the control room on 25 January and was told that they were on site draining oil and things were looking positive,” said Border-Kei Chamber of Business’s Komani Administrator Adre Bartis.

Bartis also added that she had gone to the site to take pictures, but upon arriving at the site, no one was there and no work was being done. The EMLM’s communications department denied that she had been informed of any work being done, even though local media and community had gotten the same information.

An update posted on Tuesday afternoon on the Municipality’s Facebook page read: “The service provider (specialist) is still on the way and has not yet arrived at the site. Work will commence on arrival of the specialist. The Municipality pleads for patience from all affected community members.”

The Komani office of the Border-Kei Chamber of Business engaged with the municipality, but could not get any concrete feedback. Local Businesses were willing to assist with generators, but that solution quickly became an issue as the logistics of transporting the generators, as well as filling them with fuel did not seem viable.

“We looked into a mobile transformer but this was too small to assist with the current issues. We were asked to be patient and to call the control room regularly for updates, which we did daily. Our FB page and the administrator’s Facebook page was updated daily as per the information received from the municipality,” said Bartis.

The community strike caused havoc in the area as it saw the 4-ways to Ezibeleni being closed, with residents preventing vehicles from coming in and out. This meant that taxis had to stop there and the elderly had to walk into the location. Residents were also asking who would pay for their food which was damaged due to there being no electricity.

Komani residents are no strangers to the power problems they face currently, and claims are that it could have been avoided.

In 2020 the Municipality bought a new transformer for the Unathi Mkefa area. However, this transformer was problematic and it was returned to the manufacturer in Johannesburg. They repaired it with no cost to the municipality and it was returned and installed by the local municipality. The transformer gave issues for a second time and returned to the manufacturer again.

The manufacturer confirmed that the problem was not on their side and that the local municipality had to sort a few issues out on their side before they would return the transformer.

The transformer failed because the phases were not properly balanced and there was no downstream protection.

Local beverages manufacturer, Twizza, brought in their consultant to assist with testing. The quote they obtained was to rectify the problem and to bring the installation up to Eskom standards. However, the municipality did not follow the consultant’s advice. Instead, they linked the Unathi Mkefa line with that of Queendustria causing tremendous strain on the transformer in Queendustria.

The constant outages can be resolved by returning the Unathi Mkefa transformer and to reduce the strain on the Queendustria transformer.

To keep updated on these issues, members are advised to follow BKCOB’s various social media platforms and website.