A week-long blackout has turned Ward 11 into a tinderbox, and the lack of political leadership is causing a volatile situation.
Bronville, Riemvasmaak, Blinkdakkies, Vergenoeg, Morpark, Ext. 9 and Ext. 15 have been without electricity since last Thursday.
On Saturday (20/05) and Sunday tempers boiled over and the Welkom and Virginia road was blocked with burning tyres. On Sunday the police fired rubber bullets at residents who had gathered for a community meeting.
An injured resident, Stella Hallam, says the police were very rude and unreasonable.
“They started shooting at us just because some of the people waiting for the meeting started to sing. This whole situation is getting ugly. It is very sad that people are without electricity in bitter cold. We are getting no feedback from our councillor,” she says.
The Ward 11 electricity problem is an ongoing situation since about 2015, and the installation of the much anticipated R66 million overhead cable has been stopped by the Covid-19 lockdown regulations.
The overload on the fragile system caused by the stay-at-home-regulations, and the subsequent increase in illegal connections, has resulted in a total failure of the grid.
Municipal statistics indicate that only 8% of Ward 11 pay for their services, and more than 10 000 people live here.
Another pending disaster is the extremely vulnerable sewage system. The continual electrical outages are affecting the pump station, and municipal sources say that if the station fails, the sewage will push up into houses and yards.
Over the weekend the electrical grid of ouBronville was put over onto the Welkom network to secure the pump station. This angered residents in the other areas, as they still had no electricity.
“We are disgraced at the way we are being treated. Is it because there is no transformer available for Ward 11, or is it because we have a court case against Nkosinjani Speelman (executive mayor of Matjhabeng),” asks Randall Oosthuisen, community leader.
He says the decision taken over the weekend to do the bypass, which in effect only supplied ouBronville and Vergenoeg, was not acceptable.
“They do not care, they are only interested in our vote. I think this is a strategy to divide us for their own political reasons, but we refuse as the community, from ouBronville to Tjovitjo, we will not be victims of your stupid tricks. Bring back the electricity and complete the 66 million overhead cable which is long overdue.”
Vista understands that the transformer supplying Ward 11 needs to be replaced. A new one will cost R3 million.
Col Tandi Mbambo, spokesperson for the SAPS in the Free State, says Public Order Policing contained the situation on Saturday and monitored it.
“On Sunday the situation became volatile when community members attempted to loot tuck shops. The members again handled the situation and ultimately a public violence case was opened. No arrests have been made,” she says.
Vista has been unable to get official comment from anyone at the Matjhabeng Municipality.
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