Claims that the eThekwini electricity department is on the brink of collapse
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Durban - The eThekwini Municipality has attributed problems relating to non-functioning street lights and the city’s billing system to cable theft, vandalism and theft together with an overload on call centres due to Covid-19.
Francois Rodgers, the DA KwaZulu-Natal leader, and Nicole Graham, the party's eThekwini caucus leader, held a placard demonstration at the electricity department's head office on Friday. They then handed a memorandum to an official.
Rodgers says the department was on the brink of collapse - from a dysfunctional billing system to the call centre.
“People have to wait long periods until they can log their queries. Even after they have logged their queries, they still have to wait for hours due to the shortage of equipment and human capacity. Our streets have become havens of crime due to faulty and non-working street lights. Enough is enough. We need a complete overhaul of the department in order for us to see a change in eThekwini,” he said.
Graham told the Post that they decided to hold the demonstration because of an alleged decline in the responsiveness and capacity of the electricity department over a period of time. She said they had met with city officials and proposed solutions.
“We have reported, on numerous occasions, outages and street light outages but we still are not seeing much success. We decided to take our complaints in the form of a memorandum to the electricity office to demand action. This is also directed to the city manager’s office, the mayor and the political leadership of the city. We also think this is a political issue ..."
She said they hoped there would be changes in the department.
“There are a lot of structural problems that are hindering these departments. Like supply chain management and the lack of consequence management, which means that officials and contractors, who don’t do their jobs, get away with it… The repairs can’t be attended to. This shows the lack of response to the concerns of the residents.
“Residents’ complaints regarding the customer-care line are that it is very difficult to get through to, there are long waiting times, a high percentage of drop calls, and also that the call centre is not able to give any quick responses. You get an SMS that your query has been recorded but not any information as to the nature of the fault. Many people have to repeatedly call back to get more information."
The Post called the call centre three times between Thursday and Friday. Two calls were answered in about 5 minutes. The third was disconnected after six minutes of no response.
Msawakhe Mayisela, the city spokesperson, said they were doing everything to attend to faults reported with the equipment and human capital at its disposal.
“The issue of street lighting in Durban is mostly attributed to social problems. The city's electricity department solves technical issues but you find that our teams fix the problem only for unknown vehicles to come and deliberately destroy the same lights again. We also have an issue with cable theft. We are pleading with our residents to please report these criminals to law enforcement so that they can be dealt with.”
He said the waiting times on the call centre were dependent on the number of queries logged and dispatched for repairs. These times, he said, varied daily.
" ... Be reminded that these are Covid-19 times and staff numbers per shift can vary depending on the number of people who might, for various reasons such as quarantine, testing positive or being named as close contacts by their families and friends. This affects the number of people working, and therefore callers would have to hold on while an available agent takes their call. We ask for patience and understanding from our residents. All calls will be attended to,” he said.