South Africa News

eThekwini officials allegedly kidnapped at gunpoint to fix month-long power outage at hostel

Two managers from the eThekwini electricity department were kidnapped and held hostage, allegedly at gunpoint, by angry hostel dwellers who have been without power for a month.

A group of KwaMashu hostel dwellers allegedly stormed the Durban Unicity Electricity depot in Redhill, Durban North, on Wednesday and took the two managers to restore their electricity.

Shontel de Boer, ward 36 councillor, said residents had been without electricity for a month.

“They held them at gunpoint until their power was restored. Those managers are off on stress leave due to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder),” she said.

A source at the depot told the publication the incident happened on Wednesday and the managers were later released without major physical harm.

“I know about the incident, it happened on Wednesday about 10am. They slapped one official who spoke in a manner they did not like. The two people they took with them will probably be back on Monday.”

The publication understands no charges have been laid yet.

This occurred amid the unprotected strike by Samwu-affiliated workers that has resulted in disruption of service delivery throughout the city, particularly waste collection, water and electricity.

Residents in various suburbs across Durban have protested about the lack of service delivery. On Wednesday hundreds of Phoenix residents blockaded roads with burning tyres and debris to force the city to restore power to the area.

eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda said police are investigating a case of murder after a municipal manager died at the weekend after she was beaten at the Umlazi cemetery and two cases of attempted murder of two other city employees.

De Boer alleged striking workers also pulled out all the fuses at the depot, leaving computers without power.

“The staff are in a terrible state, and the few that are working are unable to obtain the proper resources required to deal with motor voltage faults.”

She said the issue was not only affecting her ward but other areas in the city as well because the department is only able to repair the faults that are above ground, not those underground.

She said she has explored different avenues to get the problem fixed, along with other councillors whose residents have had outages for weeks, but their attempts had not been successful.

“I have tried everything possible to get even a private team to attend to our MV fault, but there are documents that private electricians do not have, nor do they have a permit to dig into municipal infrastructure,” she said.

“I even tried the municipal contractors, but they also need a permit to dig. I’m at my wits’ end trying to get our fault attended, but I keep hitting a brick wall. All of my colleagues across the city are in the same boat with their respective communities, also hammering them daily about their outages.”

The city referred queries to police.

Kaunda said on Wednesday the city had initiated disciplinary proceedings against the workers engaged in the illegal strike.

“To date 81 employees are on precautionary suspension for misconduct committed during the illegal strike while 1,891 employees have been given notices of misconduct and 88 employees have been dismissed for their participation in the unlawful industrial action which started on February 27.”

-TL

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