Four years and R7-million later, villages still sit without power

Mzimvubu Municipality has been incapable of finishing an electrification project it started in 2018

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Villages in KwaBhaca, Eastern Cape, have been waiting since 2019 for their electricity to be switched on. Photo supplied

More than R7-million was spent on a project to provide electricity to two villages near KwaBhaca (Mount Frere), in the Eastern Cape, but the contractor left the site four years ago and the villagers still sit without power.

Mzimvubu Local Municipality spokesperson Nokhanyo Zembe said the project was awarded in 2018 to RPS Engineering, trading as Ilangabi.

Phase one at Colana Mission started in 2018 to electrify 271 households and R3.1-million was spent. Phase two at Sigudwaneni started in 2019 for 169 households and R4-million was spent. The Sigudwaneni installation was completed but never went live.

Zembe said Ilangabi’s contract was terminated for poor performance in 2019.

We reported in 2020 and also last year on issues with Ilangabi, a BEE consulting electrical engineering firm, and its unfinished projects in the area dating back to 2014.

Chief Siviwe Mgutyana said that since 2019 residents have waited for the power to be switched on. “The only thing we are getting is a blame game and excuses followed by empty promises,” he said.

He said the municipality blamed Eskom and cable theft but promised the villagers would get power.

“People are tired of waiting. For the past four years, we have been watching our meter boxes as ornaments,” he said.

Sigudwaneni resident Bongiwe Mafuya said other villages nearby that started with electrification in 2021 already have electricity. She said they had met officials numerous times, written a number of letters and threatened to protest, all to no avail.

“But we are not going to give up. We will push them until they do the right thing. We have already elected a task team to put pressure on them. We want electricity,” she said.

Ward 10 Councillor Welcome Nqakwana (ANC) said officials from the Eastern Cape legislature and Mzimvubu “made it clear to residents that it is Eskom who is delaying us”.

Zembe said Eskom had identified numerous defects but these had been addressed, and inspected and approved by Eskom. She said they were now waiting for Eskom to supply power.

She did however say a transformer is damaged at Colana and the municipality has to replace it.

Eskom spokesperson Ays Mabusela referred all our questions back to the municipality.

TOPICS:  Electricity Local government

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