State of Port Alfred’s electricity infrastructure

Port Alfred’s electricity infrastructure was in a shocking state at the time CDR Electrical was appointed as contractor last year, company director Russel Jackson-Moss told business owners at the Sunshine Coast Tourism (SCT) and Port Alfred Business Forum AGM last week.

Ndlambe Municipality appointed CDR Electrical in June last year, the company taking over from Manelec which had been the municipality’s electrical service provider for 20 years.

Jackson-Moss was invited to the AGM to present an update on Port Alfred’s electricity infrastructure and the prospects for Christmas lights in the town this year.

“We inherited a network that was aged and neglected for many years,” he said.

He said when CDR Electrical took over, they never received a single maintenance report or infrastructure map.

“We embarked on due diligence internally. We found there were serious abnormalities and shortcomings in the infrastructure. We told the municipality they should appoint an independent auditor,” Jackson-Moss said.

The result was a document the size of a telephone directory, he said.

He said over the past 16 months CDR Electrical had dealt with numerous failures, theft incidents and attempted theft, sometimes being able to apprehend the thieves.

“The frustration is the availability of funds to fix the problems. The flow of funding is at a snail’s pace,” he said.

But the good news is that Ndlambe secured R15-million in funding from the department of minerals and energy to be able to build a new power substation on erf 641 in Pascoe Crescent, replacing the old one at the site.

The target date for completion is March 2022.

He said once it was fully functional the new substation would show where and when faults occur.

The Stocks Street substation will also be refitted and will serve as a backup.

“The original engineering of Port Alfred is sound. It was done by engineers who knew what they were doing. It’s just been neglected and needs to be fixed or replaced, and that’s what we’re doing,” Jackson-Moss said.

“There are no strategic spares. If we lose a mini-substation in this town, it’ll take 14-16 weeks to replace. At the moment, we’re vulnerable.”

He said ring feeds had been disconnected during Manelec’s time. “It makes no sense why they were left like that.”

In response to a query from a resident about the light fittings that had been left dangling on the Nico Malan Bridge, Jackson-Moss said: “What happened on the bridge was highly illegal. Somebody drilled 150 holes with a Hilti drill. We can’t do anything on the bridge, it belongs to Sanral.”

As for street lighting, he said CDR Electrical was moving to energy efficient LED lighting, and would not keep spares of the old lights.

“There’s no pot of gold to replace all the street lighting,” he said.

He said pressure was on to connect power to the new 1ML RO plant in Wharf Street by November 7.

As for festive season lighting, he said last year CDR Electrical had paid for it as a gesture of goodwill.

“It’s expensive. I’ll submit a quotation to the municipality, but I don’t know if they’ll spend that money.”

CONTRIBUTION TO TOURISM: Sunshine Coast Tourism (SCT) chairman Rick Pryce handed the tourism floating trophy to Lesley Theunissen, owner of Rosehill SuperSpar and Nemato Spar, at the SCT AGM last week Picture: JON HOUZET

In other news at the AGM, SCT chairman Rick Pryce said tourism was bouncing back, with the mainstay being national weekend tourism.

He said the success of the Medolino Farmers Market was a sign of the resiliency of entrepreneurs.

“Tourism and business are closely linked, it’s almost impossible to separate the two. Thus we’re one organisation,” Pryce said.

He welcomed new business forum chairman Clinton Millard.

SCT manager Sandy Birch said it had been a difficult year due to the Covid-19 lockdowns and they had to look for loopholes allowing tourism activity.

SCT has redesigned its branding to avoid branding confusion, started a vibrant Instagram account and also redesigned its website.

Birch said property prices were increasing, which is a sign of investor confidence in the area, “despite Port Alfred having no water”.

“Ndlambe Municipality are amazing in that they do understand tourism, and they do support us,” she said.

The lion’s share of funding for SCT – more than R800,000 – comes from the municipality, with other revenue coming from membership fees and the website.

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