On Wednesday evening, 11 October at 19:00, the power in Piet Retief went out and was only partially restored at about 18:00 the next day.
After spending many hours in the dark, wondering what had happened, Eskom informed the Excelsior News at about 15:00 on Thursday afternoon, that the fault was due to a broken jumper cable on the Normandie/Kemp line. However, many residents still have questions regarding the events of the day.
According to the General Manager of Electrical Services at the Mkhondo Local Municipality, Mr A. Mambane, Eskom was informed of the power outage as soon as it happened. He informed the Excelsior News that the Eskom technicians stated that they worked until 03:00 on Thursday morning, trying to locate the problem.
The technicians said that, at that stage, they could not continue work as they did not have access to certain areas. Mr A. Mambane told the Excelsior News that the technicians informed him that they had found the fault and could begin repairing it by 09:00, Thursday morning. According to an e-mail received from Eskom at 10:00 on Thursday, the technicians were still patrolling the lines to identify the fault.
According to a local resident, it should take between two and six hours to repair a broken jumper, but Eskom did not confirm this time frame. This means that the fault should have been fixed by 15:00 at the absolute latest. At about 14:30 on Thursday, a reporter from Excelsior News, the Executive Mayor Hon. Cllr. V.S. Motha, Cllr. I. Brussow, Mr A. Mambane and other employees from the Electrical Services Department went to the substation to personally find out what was going on.
On arrival, Mr Vincent Kirtley, from Eskom, informed the representatives from Mkhondo that it was Patrick’s (no surname was provided) responsibility to know what was going on. The representatives were told that they could not phone Patrick, as he was busy working on the line, and that they should drive to the location where they were busy. Mr Kirtley told the representatives that he did not know where the Eskom technicians were working, but that they should be in the area of the “Tweelingbruggies”.
He furthermore informed the representatives that they should not hold Eskom responsible for the power outage, as there were contractors who worked on the line a few months ago. To the Excelsior News’ knowledge, this work was done on 12 February, when Eskom had to replace old wooden poles with steel structures. The Mkhondo representatives were also informed that the technicians working on the problem, were struggeling to reach the top lines.
When an inquiry was made to find out how they planned to do the repairs, the Eskom employee stated that he did not know. From there, the Mkhondo representatives travelled to “Tweelingbruggies”, but could not find any Eskom technicians. An Eskom employee informed the representatives at about 15:30 that the technicians had completed their work and that they were busy ensuring that nobody else was working on the line. The representatives followed the line from there to the Mkhondo substation, but did not find any Eskom technicians.
The representatives waited at the substation to receive a call from Mr Kirtley, informing them that they could switch the power back on. The representatives waited until just before 17:00 at the substation, but then came back in to town to give an update on the situation to the community. The power came on for the first time at about 17:30. It seems as if there was a sudden overload and the power tripped again.
The municipality addressed this issue, and by 18:30 the first residents had their power back on for good. As the municipality put small sections of the town’s electricity on at a time, there were residents who reportedly only received power again at 21:30 and later that evening.
There are many questions that have been left unanswered. An e-mail was sent to Eskom’s Communications Department, but at time of going to print, no response was received to answer these questions. As soon as any further information is made available to the Excelsior News, this will be communicated to the community.