Crises centre left in the dark

WHO do people call when a crisis occurs? That is the question asked by NGO Lifeline Pietermaritzburg after their organisation went for days without electricity, and without answers from the municipality.

Lifeline was without electricity for two days, from July 17 to July 19, after the municipality failed to attend to a power failure which disrupted their services on offer.

“Many rape survivors and other distressed clients were left emotionally wounded and in a state of despair as face-to-face counselling services could not be offered due to there being no lights in counselling rooms, [and] e-mail counselling services were discontinued due to the power failure,” said Lifeline director Sinikiwe Biyela.

After relaying their problems to the municipality call centre, Lifeline said they were told that the power failure was not the fault of the municipality and that they should get their own electrician to resolve the problem. The operator then abruptly ended the call.

“We barely even finished explaining that our electrician had already confirmed that the issue was a municipal one when she dropped the call on us,” said Biyela.

Biyela stated that they called the municipality seven more times and were hung up on repeatedly.

“It is disappointing that this kind of attitude from public servants happened on July 18, Mandela Day — a day in which people are meant to go out of their way to help others and promote the core values that Nelson Mandela stood for,” she said.

Biyela was disappointed with the municipality’s “I don’t care attitude” and felt as though those working for them were numb to the needs of the most vulnerable groups in society, posing the question: “Where should the survivors of rape and intimate partner violence go for support services if the NGO known in the city for providing such services has been disabled by the municipality?”

Though Biyela stated that their lights were restored, the municipality failed to respond to queries as to why the lights were allowed to stay off for such a long time.