Maintenance Failure or Sabotage? That is the question on everyone’s lips regarding GMM electricity failures.
Govan Mbeki Municipality has been plagued by increasingly more frequent power failures over the past few months.
Bethal has been constantly without power for hours on end. eMbalenhle struggles despite the new mobile transformer installed and lately, Secunda has suffered days without power.
The reasons for the power failures, excluding load-shedding, is very difficult to understand as no one will give a straight and truthful answer.
Councillors are inundated with residents demanding to know what the situation is. Frustrated residents have resorted to demanding that the Councillors must ensure that the power is immediately restored. Some have even resorted to verbal abuse.
But why is the electricity infrastructure failing?
Is it due to the lack of maintenance or is it due to sabotage?
A recent post on the Govan Mbeki Municipal Facebook page claims that the recent failure is due to sabotage.
Here is their post:
“The Govan Mbeki Municipality has managed to restore electricity supply to some areas in Secunda that were left in the dark following the theft and vandalism of electricity infrastructure.
The team is working to restore power to all the outstanding customers.
We apologise for any inconvenience and thank you for your cooperation.”
As well as
“The Govan Mbeki Municipality together with Sasol are hard at work trying to restore power to most parts of Secunda.
This is due to sabotage that is currently happening to the GMM infrastructure.”
Click HERE for their Facebook Page
The most recent issue was the one of Ring Sub 1 (RSB1) in Secunda. RSB1 were giving problems for at least a month before finally breaking down 10 days ago. More than one cable fault was located between the main substation and RSB1. RSB1 was vandalised over several months and the remedy was to bypass the vandalised transformer and to add to other infrastructure overloading the Ring Sub. (In layman’s terms)
Locating the cable fault proved problematic and this took several days. GMM has a thumper that is used to locate the fault but was unsuccessful. GMM requested help from Sasol in locating the fault on Monday 6 December. Sasol started on Tuesday, finding a fault late on Tuesday. This fault has now subsequently been fixed but another fault has been discovered in the general CBD area. The exact area is not yet known.
What is a Thumper?
A cable fault locator, or thumper, detects faults in electrical cabling by sending high-voltage electrical impulses into the cable system. … Thumpers provide high-voltage surges that cause voltage breakdowns and offer a reflection point for the pulse generated by the TDR.
In the meantime, while waiting for the main cable to arrive, 300m of cable were replaced in AG Visser street.
The Minisub near McDonald’s failed on Tuesday and were replaced on Wednesday. Some of the feed were relayed from this minisub to a portion of RSB1area to restore some power in the area. This minisub was subsequently overloaded and tripped.
The result was that most of the town was plunged into darkness.
Only RSB5, 6 & 7 could be restored. When restoring power from the Main Sub Station several minisubs exploded.
There is no protection on the minisubs and ring subs limiting the backlash into other subs. This resulted in several other subs tripping. The surge also succeeded in pinpointing minor faults in the network resulting that the ring sub tripped continually and it could not be reset.
RSB2 and Parts of RSB2, RSB3 and RSB8 as well as a few minisubs are still off affecting people in the following areas.
Lehman street, Hoërskool Secunda, Silkaatskop, the Airfield as well as the industrial area behind Builders, Lake Umuzi and the Central Business District. The industrial area at the Fire Station is also affected.
Vandalism mostly takes place when power failures occur. Although there might be an element of sabotage in some cases this cannot be proven. The Bulletin will try and secure the case numbers for these sabotage and vandalism cases if there are any.
The Bulletin searched for maintenance schedules on switchgear but struggled to find any as this is a specialised field.
Business owners from the affected areas met with the director responsible for electricity today in the Library Auditorium.
The group were frustrated and struggled to keep the tempers down.
It was explained to the group that the biggest problem is vandalism and sabotage.
“There is a meeting currently between GMM and SAPS,” the Director said, “this is to discuss the security situation.”
There were concerns that GMM does not accept help from the public sector. The officials made it clear that they will accept any help offered.
The problem of blaming everything on vandalism is that no responsibility is accepted for the poor maintenance of infrastructure. Little to no maintenance has been done for nearly 20 years.
Switching power on or off will leave residue in the equipment. Oil in the transformer should be changed regularly. Contacts should be inspected and cleaned.
There is also the problem of capacity and qualifications. Opposition parties have repeatedly asked to have a skill audit done. This was denied on several occasions and a motion to this regard was even steamrolled and denied by the ANC councillors. This is even while a document called the Financial Recovery Plan was accepted by the ANC majority in which a skills audit was proposed.
The obvious problem with maintenance is very noticeable if the open distribution boxes and even some minisubs are evident of this. It is easy for anybody to access the infrastructure and damage it.
These open boxes have been reported on several occasions but are never attended to, citing poor cash flow or now budget
The maintenance should start now to try and restore some integrity into the system. Residents are at their wits end with GMM