uMngeni Municipality lost over R1m in protest in July

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uMngeni municipality lost just over 1.3 million rand in a protest in July by disgruntled Mpophomeni residents who had been without power for just over a week.

The amount includes more than R166,000 for security the municipality has hired to guard their infrastructure and other municipal buildings, which were believed to have come under threat during the protest.

The protest began on July 8 after around 150 households in the Japanese and Korean sections of the township were without power for a few days after a transformer explosion in the area.

The municipality blamed this on an overload due to illegal connections in Mpophomeni and said it would only repair the transformer once it had carried out meter audits in all households.

Financially crippling protests

A group of residents blocked the road demanding the repair of the transformer without the audit even though some of the residents were against the protest and supported the audit.

For about a week, all entry points to Mpophomeni commune and the R617 were completely blocked. A truck was also reportedly set on fire by some of the protesters.

The group had also stormed the municipal offices in Howick and demanded that uMngeni Mayor Chris Pappas address them.

After days of road closures in the Mpophomeni area and some days in Howick, Pappas addressed the group. A few days later, the municipal authorities carried out the meter checks and the electricity was restored.
uMngeni Deputy Mayor Sandile Mnikathi said the report was tabled at a recent full council meeting.

It is disheartening that the municipality has lost so much money because of this protest. We had to increase the security of municipal infrastructure in Howick and Mpophomeni after receiving reports that they could be attacked.

He added that the provision of services was also interrupted during the protest, which was also of concern to the municipality.

Political influence allegations

There were also allegations that the protest was politically influenced, although some of the protesters denied this.

Mnikathi said an investigation was still ongoing to find out the causes of the protest and determine who was behind it.

ANC caucus leader and protest-hit area ward councilor Thulani Mthalane said they had asked officials to break down how much the council spent to determine what was paid and when .

We want to know if the amount for security was for bodyguards or to protect municipal infrastructure and also if it is justifiable… There is also a cost related to employees of R700,000, and we also want to know how they quantified this amount and why this amount was paid. We then asked that a more informative report be given to the next council so that we have more knowledge on this subject.

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