We’re going back to abnormal

Thursday.

My plans for a sedate, dignified filing session followed by a quick dip in the ocean to celebrate a pearler of a Durban day now that some of the beaches are reopened have — for not the first time — had their own plans for me.

Instead of munching on a soft-shell crab burger and waiting for pages to proof, I’m across town, sweating, desperately hustling electricity and somewhere to work.

Thanks to the third power outage in ward 33 since Saturday, I’m a bundle of frantic energy, bouncing up and down in frustration while the laptop crawls through the 90-minute Windows update it chose to do — this morning, of all possible mornings — the second I got it powered up.

One eye is on the laptop, the other on the clock as I curse the municipality, the mayor and every other person involved in running Durban into the ground and turning me into a grumpy old wit ou.

The municipality is — as it has been since Saturday — blaming the cats who are laying fibre in the area for cutting the electricity cable while working on the roll-out that’s taken around 12 months and which is far from over.

The consistently inconsistent electricity supply is only the beginning of the city’s problem.

Word has it that somebody at City Hall failed to renew the contracts with the electricians the city pays to do the actual work of fixing broken cables, repairing street lights and generally keeping the power on in January, with the result that they downed tools and marched on City Hall several times, leaving nobody to do the actual work.

Word also has it that the same dispute may well be the cause of some of the outages, despite the municipality’s assurances that all is well between it and the up-till-now discontented service providers.

According to the city, the issue with the electricians — which it said had worsened delays in repairs — had been resolved and that all the contractors were back at work.

Fair enough.

That doesn’t explain the armed escort of metro police and council security that accompanied the contractors who fixed the cable on Sunday morning — they arrived with the electricians and stayed on site until the lights were back on, before escorting them out of the area.

Or the power going off in streets in which the fibre roll-out has already taken place.

Perhaps I’m just paranoid.

Perhaps.

I don’t hold out a lot of hope that the situation will improve anytime soon. 

It’s not just the cable breakages.

The city is owed around R1-billion in arrears on electricity and rates from government departments and entities like schools, the department of public works and Ithala, the provincial government’s development bank, whose tenants are being cut off despite paying it for electricity and rent.

That’s R1-billion that should be going towards maintaining — and repairing — the city’s electricity grid, but isn’t, because nobody has bothered to collect it.

This week’s executive committee meeting spent most of its time discussing whether or not to approve R1 200 a month suit allowances for the bodyguards minding the mayor, the city brass and the councillors whose comrades want to kill them, so I’m not putting any money on mayor Mxolisi Kaunda turning up at Ithala headquarters to repossess their photocopiers and pool vehicles any time in the near future.

Like most of my fellow South Africans, I’m waiting for further clarity from the head of state as to when he intends to lift the remaining Covid-19 state of disaster regulations, rather than extending it when the last extension expires on 15 February.

I’ve just received a notification to stand by for a vaccine booster shot in the not-too-distant future, so I’m all in favour of Cyril Ramaphosa giving us the go-ahead to crack on.

I’ve finally gotten a proper smartphone — the cannibalised handset I’d nursed through the past decade finally died — so I see no problem in presenting a vaccine passport if that’s what’s required for me to live life.

Two years into the pandemic and I’d pay good money for a space with no anti-vaxxers in it, let alone swipe a vaccine passport, more for the peace and quiet and lack of bleating by folks with more data than sense than for actual safety purposes.

Scan and enter — or go home.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller.

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