According to the Electrical Chief at the Greater Tzaneen Municipality, Sam Lelope, the rumours that there were not enough vehicles for the technicians to attend to numerous faults on the power grid this past week, were not true. Large parts of Tzaneen, Letsitele and Haenertsburg were left without power on Monday and Tuesday after Eskom’s area-wide shut down on Sunday for maintenance.

Sunday’s scheduled outage commenced at 06:00 and was meant to be restored by 18:00 but the lights were back on at 18:15, much to the delight of all residents. That joy was short lived however as not 20 minutes later the power was out again. It came back on 20 minutes or so after that and went off again less than 10 minutes later. This continued until just after 19:00 that evening before it appeared as though the grid had been stabilized.

Monday and Tuesday saw outages in various suburbs with technicians tending to cable faults. When no feedback was given to the residents on the progress of their fault repairs after hours without power on Tuesday, Ward Councillor Chrizelle Dreyer and PR Councillor André Moss, contacted the control room after failing on numerous attempts to reach any of the electrical department’s management on any of their listed numbers.

When the control room could not be reached on the landline, the councillors contacted the technicians on their listed numbers who then informed them that there were not enough vehicles for them to tend to all the faults in some of the areas. Some residents were told the same when they too contacted the technicians.

Reportedly one of the vehicles was in the Politsi area, one vehicle was in the Letsitele area, another vehicle was in Tzaneen town whilst another was tending to a fault in Lushof. The technicians also claimed that there were vehicles parked at a local car dealership service department, which had already been serviced, but not delivered due to payment not having been made.

This meant that of the seven vehicles available to the technical team, only four were in operation.

Councillor Dreyer then drove to the GTM offices to speak to the acting municipal manager Alec Nkuna. Nkuna was not available, but his secretary contacted Sam Lelope, the director of electrical engineering services who then called Dreyer a short while later.

Lelope denied that there were not enough vehicles for his technicians and said that it was merely a rumour that two vehicles were awaiting payment at a local workshop. He said that there were seven working vehicles available for his team to do their work. He agreed that communication between the control room and the community members was lacking and that they would have to find an easier way to improve communication between the GTM and their clients.

In the meantime, Bulletin sent an inquiry to the spokesperson of the GTM, Vutivi Makhubele. “There are two GTM vehicles at BB Motors, of which one awaits authorisation to be released by the service provider because the vehicle is still under warranty and the municipality is not liable for the payment,” she said in her response. “The other vehicle awaits an order which is currently being processed by finance, this is a supply chain procedure that the municipality is required to follow before affecting payments.”

Does this mean that the report Lelope claimed he was reading whilst speaking to the councillor was factually incorrect, or perhaps outdated? Or is the chief of the electrical department out of touch with what is truly going on in his department? Residents are hot under the collars because of his reluctance to engage them on any of the issues personally, and his refusal to become involved on any of the fault reporting groups.

Bulletin has on numerous occasions in the past attempted to interview Lelope, but each time we have been denied an interview and our questions are directed to the spokesperson.