Dr Beyers Naude residents are having a slight reprieve from the combined load shedding/load reduction that hit the Municipality last week and rendered Graaff-Reinet, Aberdeen and Willowmore powerless for between 8 and 10 hours a day. For reasons not yet divulged, the load reduction appears to have been suspended since yesterday resulting in the Municipality reverting to ordinary loadshedding schedules for now.
The impact of both the loadshedding and load reduction was absolutely dire. Areas in Graaff-Reinet have been without water for up to 3 weeks. More than half the residents of the town have had no water for over a week. Water carting was dismal until pressure from the DA and community members resulted in additional water tankers being brought on line to assist with getting water to the desperate residents. Gift of the Givers also sent two trucks to deliver water. Not only has water provisioning been affected, but the lack of water has resulted in at least two of the sewage pump stations overflowing with raw sewage flowing freely into the Sundays River – yet another crisis to compound the already chaotic service delivery in Graaff-Reinet.
There has been almost no communication from the Mayor or the Municipality in this regard. They have not advised on the reason for the suspension of load reduction or even whether there is a chance that it will resume. In the absence of anything official, we are of the opinion that Eskom’s suspension of load reduction was due to the decision of the Constitutional Court last week brought by the ratepayers of two Free State Municipalities that found that the decision to decrease power supply was unfair as they had not afforded residents the opportunity to make representations on the issue.
That being said, this slight reprieve should not be used by the Municipality to further delay addressing the means by which it will deal with the R361million that it owes Eskom. Despite the minimal communication, the Municipality has refused to acknowledge any fault in the load reduction debacle. Instead, they have laid the blame at Eskom’s door. In the meantime, irrespective of their reasoning, residents who have already paid for their electricity have been penalised by Eskom because of an inter-governmental dispute between the Municipality and Eskom. This cannot be tolerated when people are without water, businesses are without power and raw sewage is flowing into water resources.
The Democratic Alliance will be bringing an urgent motion to Council at the first sitting of the year to debate a strategy to deal with the Eskom crisis and for consequence management to be brought against the officials who do not enforce or abide by the determined strategy. Residents of this Municipality cannot continue to be punished for the wrongdoings of the Municipal officials.