City blames cable failure for power cuts

Residents say they have been plagued by power cuts ever since their prepaid meters were installed. Pictured is Gail Vincents prepaid electricity box.

Bridgetown residents have complained about frequent power cuts, which leave them in the dark and unable to cook.

The City of Cape Town conceded there had been a number of outages last month and invited residents to submit their claims to the City in cases where damages were sustained due to the power failures.

One of the residents, Gail Vincent, who stays in Vink Road, said two weeks ago her electricity had gone off four times in one and a half days, and seven times for the month.

She said what frustrated her the most was that every time she tried to log a complaint with the City she used up all her airtime because she was put on hold.

She said that on Thursday April 20 the entire road’s electricity had gone off at 3pm and came on again at noon the following day.

She spoke to sub-contractors working on the electricity box at the time.

“They told me that they were upgrading the meter boxes, so I asked them if that is the reason that our electricity is off, and they said no, it shouldn’t have interrupted our electricity supply,” said Ms Vincent.

“This happened ever since our prepaid metres were installed, which we didn’t ask for. What are we going to do in winter? We can’t even make ourselves something to eat or a cup of tea. We have to borrow warm water from our neighbours who have gas stoves,” she said.

Ms Vincent lights candles when the outages continue into the night.

“What about the people who have to iron their clothes for work and take a warm shower, and eat breakfast before they go to work? Sometimes it goes off in the early hours of the morning,” she said.

Another resident, Chantal Jacobs, said she had had to replace her kettle three times.

The power cuts disrupted her husband’s and children’s morning routines, making them late for school and work.

“My family wakes up at 4am because my husband has to go to work, and my children travel to school in Wynberg. They have to eat and wash, and they can’t wash because there is no hot water. They can’t get ready because they can’t see where they are going. This makes my children late for school because they miss the train, which lands them in detention,” she said.

Ms Jacobs blamed the City for using “incompetent” sub-contractors because they were cheaper.

“It works for them but not for us. This has happened ever since they upgraded the boxes in the road. We have a right to have a decent way of living,” she said.

Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services; and energy apologised for the inconvenience caused by the power cuts.

She said according to the City’s records, four outages had occurred and had been attended to in Vink Road, Bridgetown between 5.30pm and 6pm on Tuesday April 4, Thursday April 6, Wednesday April 12 and Thursday April 20.

Ms Limberg said prolonged sun exposure or bad weather, among other things, could damage a cable before it was installed. That damage was hard to detect.

Asked if residents were informed about electricity outages, Ms Limberg said that in cases of planned outages, residents or consumers were notified by a hand-delivered letter.

Residents could submit a public liability claim form along with all supporting documents to claim for damages.

“Alternatively, residents can use the insurance claim form available on the City’s website. Each claim is assessed on its own merit, which includes assessment of whether there has been any negligence or omission on the City’s side,”she said.

The claim must be submitted to the Insurance Section either by email to charlene.harmse@
capetown.gov.za, or fax to 086 202 9701, or post to: Chief Claims Administrator: Public Liability Claims, Insurance Section, 3rd Floor, Cape Town Civic Centre, Tower Block, 12 Hertzog Boulevard, Cape Town, 8001 or to electricity.claims@capetown.gov.za

“Once the City has received the claimant’s formal correspondence, a reference number will be provided for all future liaison,” she said.

In response to the residents’ complaint that the outages had happened after the installation of the prepaid boxes, Ms Limberg said: “These incidents occurred as a result of cable failure.”

She said Bridgetown, Kewtown, and Silvertown had been earmarked for a major overhaul with regard to removing the overhead infrastructure and moving to an underground network.