Nelson Mandela Bay sabotage suspected after 23 major substations trip in seven days
The Nelson Mandela Bay municipality has launched an urgent investigation after 23 major substations tripped in seven days. A criminal case was opened with the police after a 66-kilovolt line was allegedly vandalised, leading to seven municipal wards being without power from Thursday last week.
In the past seven days, the Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB) metro has experienced almost constant electricity outages as 23 substations tripped.
The metro, a motor industry manufacturing hub, is in the throes of political instability and has been the target of several threats following the precautionary suspension of seven officials in the Electricity Department after forensic investigators found evidence of major corruption.
Nelson Mandela Bay Executive Mayor Retief Odendaal has offered a reward of R20,000 for information that could lead to the arrest of those involved in cutting a 66-kilovolt line that left the seven municipal wards in and around KwaNobuhle without electricity since Thursday. The metro has laid criminal charges with the police. Odendaal said they strongly suspect sabotage as only a small section of cable was removed at a strategic place.
The forensic investigation that led to the suspension of the electricity officials was triggered by an explosion at a major substation in March.
The substation serviced the Coega Industrial Development Zone, a vital part of the metro’s economy, and Motherwell. The explosion caused R40-million in damages.
Nelson Mandela Bay’s Mayoral Committee member for electricity and energy, Lance Grootboom, said officials were hard at work repairing numerous challenges to the electricity supply across the metro.
“The power outage cases include the vandalism reports that affected the Mabandla substation, while some are the result of the recent heavy rains. We are concerned that in the last seven days, NMB has seen 23 major electricity substation outages across all communities, with the latest vandalism affecting seven wards in the KwaNobuhle cluster.
“Work to restore electricity to the affected communities continues and we are expecting power to be restored in KwaNobuhle on Tuesday.”
He said he, Odendaal and City Manager Noxolo Nqwazi, met senior officials from the Electricity and Energy Directorate on Sunday to find a way to stabilise the metro’s power supply.
“I have requested a detailed report on all recent outages and specifically requested that if … a lack of maintenance or sabotage is discovered, that strict accountability and action is taken against any persons implicated.”
Manufacturers under strain
Meanwhile, the CEO of the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber, Denise van Huyssteen, said extreme load shedding placed manufacturers in the metro under immense strain and it was of vital importance that emergency solutions be found to mitigate the risks.
“It is now a question of survival for many manufacturers over the coming weeks and months. Nelson Mandela Bay’s economy is in a particularly vulnerable situation, given that manufacturing represents 20% of our local economic activity and has a massive downstream impact on many other sectors of our economy,” said Van Huyssteen.
A survey by the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber found that in the first quarter of this year, one in five businesses had cut jobs and more than 90% were halting investment and expansion plans. In addition, 75% of businesses surveyed had been forced to implement short-time, while 18% reported job cuts.
“We will conduct another survey for the second quarter and, unfortunately, anticipate that the feedback will be even more severe.”
Van Huyssteen said a collaboration that led to the manufacturing sector being load shed for 24 hours once a week as opposed to several hours every day of the week, allows for better planning of production operations.
“To date, 35 manufacturers have met the criteria to be on this schedule and we are hoping that going forward more will be incorporated. This approach is suitable for manufacturers who operate according to continuous production processes.
“We greatly appreciate that the municipality has had the foresight to work with us on the 24-hour schedule and extend our grateful thanks to them for partnering with us on this. There is no doubt that this has already saved thousands of jobs,” she said. DM