Large parts of the tourist and mining town of Phalaborwa have been plunged into darkness over this Christmas. For the past three days, residents of Ward 12 in the municipality have been sending messages to their counselors to complain about the electricity outage. That when the residents were busy preparing to celebrate Christmas with their families and friends. The power outage came suddenly on Wednesday night, the 23rd of December 2020. At first the residents thought that it was a minor issue and that soon it would be resolved. But the electricity was off the whole night in severe heat. The mosquitoes were also making sure that the situation was not any better for the residents and the complaining grew louder.
Teams from the municipality’s electricity department were activated and they worked for a large part of the night to try and restore the electricity. They used TLB’s to dig up the damaged underground cable, and replaced it, only to discover more faults as they tried to switch on the electricity. Their efforts were hampered by heavy rain and lightening and they were forced to abandon the plan until the next day when the rain subsided. On Thursday, 24 December 2020, the workers were back in the trenches very early in the morning. This time, they received back-up from Palabora Mining Company (PMC), who sent their technicians to boost the municipality’s efforts. They again worked the whole day and the whole night but could not switch on the lights as the problems appeared to be huge.
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Counselor Sybrand de Beer of the Democratic Alliance, Jaco Gerricke of the Community Policing Forum, as well as other residents kept the residents informed of progress on the repairs to the cables through social media. The municipality’s communications department issued a statement stating that the municipality was aware of the problem and that it was receiving the necessary attention. As if that electricity problem was not enough, water also ran out very early on Christmas day. The residents had enough. By late afternoon on Christmas day, emotions were running high as the residents considered the seriousness of the situation they were in, with some thinking of all the perishable foods that they had purchased for Christmas and others feeling for their elderly parents who suffered from chronic medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease and other diseases and who rely on artificial ventilation to support their health. All these amid a new surge in the corona virus that had devastated their livelihoods.
Most residents on social media said that this was the most unpleasant Christmas they have had in years. Guests, who had traveled from far, were checking out of guest houses in the area due to the lack of water and electricity which dealt those businesses a further heavy blow pursuant to the covid-19 onslaught. By 15h30 on Christmas day, Counselor de Beer announced that the team that was working on the problem had been continuously on duty for 38 hours and that they could not take it anymore. As it became obvious that they were going to spend another night without electricity, residents began appealing to Eskom and Foskor Mine’s electricians to come to their rescue. We can only take our hats off for those anonymous workers, who continually worked for 38 hours without a break, to try and restore the electricity. At this time, electricity has not been restored to the residents of northern Phalaborwa and we ask you to put them in your thoughts as we celebrate Christmas in 2020.