ATC200618: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs on the Petition Relating to the Glen Marais Sub-Station Fire Incident Under the City of Ekurhuleni, Dated 17 June 2020
REPORT OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON COOPERATIVE GOVERNANCE AND TRADITIONAL AFFAIRS ON THE PETITION RELATING TO THE GLEN MARAIS SUB-STATION FIRE INCIDENT UNDER THE CITY OF EKURHULENI, DATED 17 JUNE 2020
Having considered the petition from Honourable Michael Waters (DA) pertaining to the fire at Glen Marais sub-station situated within the boundaries of the City of Ekurhuleni, which resulted inmany residents not having electricity for six days, the Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs reports as follows:
- On 26 August 2019, Honourable Michael Waters (DA) wrote to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs requesting the Committee to call before it the City of Ekurhuleni in relation to a petition handed to Parliament regarding a fire at the Glen Marais sub-station that left many residents without electricity for six days. The Committee has a mandate to exercise oversight over the local sphere of government.
- In response to the request, the Committee called the City of Ekurhuleni before it on Tuesday 03 December 2019 to receive a briefing on the matter. On Wednesday 03 June 2020, the Committee called the City again for a follow-up briefing.
On both occasions, Mr Michael Wilson, an official from the City’s Energy Department, led the presentations. In the presentation of 03 December 2019,
- Mr Wilson recounted a brief history of the sub-station to contextualise the events leading to the failure, with emphasis on the fact it was approximately 50 years old. However, the incident that led to the equipment failure was the theft of feeder cables. Investigations into the thefts also implicated two City of Ekurhuleni officials.
- There was sufficient maintenance work on the sub-station, including monthly inspections and follow up job cards; annual transformer oil sampling; annual infrared scanning; biannual intrusive maintenance; and weekly battery inspection and follow up job cards.
- Following the fire incident, the City, as and when immediately possible,executed repair works for the restoration of supply to customers, including replacing the damaged switchboard with a new switchboard. The City was able to restore electricity supply to all customers within seven days.
- In terms of preventative measures for the future, the City was installing ground-breaking pre-warning anti-theft devices in ‘hotspot areas’ on top of cable; new switchboards; and undertakingrefurbishmentof feeder cables.
In the presentation of 03 June, the City reported that there was visible progress in respect of the preventive measures outlined during the previous engagement, including installation of the early warning system, which has brought some stability. However, the City had no information on the progress regarding the criminal prosecution of the officials implicated in cable theft, as well as on the cable between Van Riebeeck Park and Spartan, allegedly broken since 31 July 2018. Mr Wilson undertook to conduct further investigation and report to the Committee.
- COMMITTEE OBSERVATIONS
- Both presentations were welcome, even though the first presentation was highly technical for the most part.
- There was enquiry as to whether the City would consider compensating residents for the food wastages resulting from the sub-station failure and consequent outage. There was also a recognition that such compensation had no precedent and budgetary provision.
- Also registered was a query as to whether City could have prevented the fire incident had it undertaken timely maintenance, and on whether the use of the mobile feeder board could have alleviated the power outage. At the same time, the Committee took note of the City’s report that there was sufficient maintenance work on the sub-station, and that the mobile feeder board was unsuitable for a sub-station the size of Glen Marais.
- It was more cost-effective to maintain rather than repair infrastructure, and cheaper to refurbish it than procuring new equipment. However, the Committee had to be mindful that most of the electricity infrastructure around Ekurhuleni was among the oldest in the country, some of it dating back to the Second World War. As some of this infrastructure had exceeded its lifespan, there were limits to the value of repairs and refurbishments.
- There was a need for the City to improve its communication to residents as far as electricity outages were concerned. The Committee noted the reported progress in this regard, including the creation of WhatsApp groups for affected residents.
- The City of Ekurhuleni must conduct further investigation and research, and report to the Committee, on the state of the cable connecting Van Riebeeck Park and Spartan.
- The City must report on progress regarding criminal prosecution of the two municipal officials involved in cable theft.
Report to be considered.
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