Nama-Khoi Local Municipality

Neglected electrical infrastructure: A Legacy of historical inattention

June 6, 2023

Overview and background of electrical infrastructure:

The development and maintenance of infrastructure are crucial for the smooth functioning of any society. However, in some cases, the neglect of infrastructure led to significant challenges. This report examines the implications of historically old infrastructure that were inherited as well as the previous failures to prioritize the necessary upgrades. In the Nama Khoi region, the electrical infrastructure was established several decades ago, designed to cater to the needs of a smaller population and less advanced technology. Unfortunately, the neglect of these systems has resulted in a range of issues, including power outages, safety concerns, and inefficiencies.

The Nama Khoi Local Municipality inherited the current electrical infrastructure from the then OCC (Okiep Copper Company), supplying Buffelsrivier with electricity. The overhead power line is a copper line and the supporting structure is made of old cast iron railway tracks. The cross-arm used to suspend the conductors is also made of cast iron / regular steel.

The power line is 22km long from the Nababeep OCC yard to the Buffelsrivier Eskom substation. The power line consists of 126 steel structures and 378 insulators suspending the power line from the ground. The power line is in a reasonably good condition between Nababeep and Naries and the electrical team always manages to restore power up to Naries in a timely fashion. The remaining part of the power line is in a worse condition due to copper theft attempts and the failure of steel structures and cross-arm structures.

Power outages and reliability:

One of the primary consequences of the old electrical infrastructure is the increased occurrence of power outages. Ageing equipment, inadequate maintenance, and outdated designs contribute to frequent disruptions in power supply. Old electrical infrastructure often lacks the capacity to handle the growing energy demands of modern society. Inefficient transmission and distribution systems can lead to power loss, voltage fluctuations, and an inability to meet peak energy demands. These outages have a cascading effect, impacting businesses, essential services, and the daily lives of citizens, leading to economic losses and inconvenience.

Furthermore, our observation is that rainwater and moisture that comes in contact with the steel cross arm run down the insulator as it was designed and intended to do.  This water/moisture contains rust from the cross arm and contaminates the insulator instead of rinsing it clean from dust and other contaminants that will promote flashovers and arcing which will lead to insulator failure and in turn cause earth- and sensitive earth faults which causes breakers to trip under a fault condition.

Safety hazards:

It also poses a significant safety hazard to both municipal workers and the public. Over time, insulation on electrical lines and cables deteriorates, increasing the risk of electrical faults, fires, and accidents. The lack of proper grounding and protection mechanisms can further exacerbate these dangers. The neglected infrastructure thus places the community at an increased risk of electrical hazards.

Economic impacts:

The presence of the old electrical infrastructure can have significant economic repercussions. Power outages and unreliable energy supply disrupt industrial production, hamper business operations, and discourage potential investors. Additionally, the need for emergency repairs and frequent maintenance further strains local government budgets, diverting resources that could have been utilized for development and improvement projects.

Addressing the challenges:

Rectifying the issues associated with neglected electrical infrastructure requires a multi-faceted approach. Local government must see to prioritize infrastructure investments, allocating sufficient funding for upgrades, modernization, and regular maintenance. Collaborations with relevant stakeholders, such as power utility companies and regulatory bodies, are vital for developing comprehensive plans to address the challenges and ensure the longevity of the electrical infrastructure.

The following are examples of failed insulators causing power outages:


The current standard operating procedure is to:

  • De-energize the power line under fault conditions in the Nababeep Substation.
  • Sectionalize the power line with the sectionalizes installed in 2020 at strategic and accessible points from the Spektakel pas and Naries.
  • Energize the first line segment to check if the supply remains on and if the protection relay flags a fault.
  • If the above-mentioned is not successful, the line is de-energised and the second segment is connected and the third if the faulty segment is not identified with the second segment.
  • During this trial and error the power supply at the Nababeep substation is affected because the line is energized from the medium voltage network connected to the rest of the town.
  • Line inspections on foot are carried out due to the inaccessible terrain and line routes in order to identify the faulty segment.
  • The cherry-pickers are also used to inspect the pole top hardware from the top of the pole even if the pole top hardware looks normal from the ground up.


The Municipality is in the process to programme the ‘Auto Recloser’ installed at the bulk supply point for Buffelsrivier. This device will isolate the electrical faults and limit the faults to the faulty infrastructure, not affecting the Nababeep networks Additional programming will also enable the Municipality to isolate faults in a rapid manner due to the fault distance function of the Auto Recloser.

In Addition, we are also planning to install additional sectionalizers in the line segments that demonstrate frequent faults in order to accelerate repairs and restoration of the power supply. (A sectionalizer is a protective device that automatically isolates a faulted section of a line from the rest of the distribution system.)


The above-mentioned interventions will be done in-house at minimum cost.

In order to mitigate the risk of future outages the Municipality will need to refurbish the power line at a cost of R 230 000.00 per kilometre which totals R 5 060 000.00.

Tackling ageing infrastructure: The tireless efforts of current Municipal Leadership and Management

The challenges associated with ageing infrastructure can significantly impact the efficiency and quality of services provided by the municipality. However, the current municipal leadership and management have been steadfast in their commitment to addressing this issue.

Comprehensive Infrastructure Assessment:

The first step taken by the current municipal leadership and management was to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the ageing infrastructure. This involved evaluating the condition of roads, bridges, water supply systems, sewage networks, and electrical grids. By gaining a thorough understanding of the infrastructure’s current state, they were able to identify the areas requiring immediate attention and prioritize their efforts accordingly.

Strategic Planning and Budget Allocation:

To effectively address the ageing infrastructure, the leadership and management developed a strategic plan that encompassed short-term and long-term goals. This plan involved setting clear objectives, defining timelines, and allocating the necessary budget for infrastructure upgrades and maintenance. By adopting a proactive approach, they aimed to minimize disruptions, optimize resource allocation, and ensure the sustainability of the improvements.


Collaboration with experts and stakeholders:

Recognizing the complexity of the task at hand, the current municipal leadership and management actively sought collaboration with experts and stakeholders. They engaged with engineering firms, consultants, and industry professionals to gain specialized knowledge and insights. Additionally, they fostered partnerships with community groups, non-profit organizations, and businesses to leverage resources, secure funding, and gather community input. This collaborative approach ensured a well-rounded perspective and increased the likelihood of successful outcomes.

Embracing innovative solutions:

In tackling the ageing infrastructure, management has also shown a willingness to embrace innovative solutions. They have explored modern construction techniques, sustainable materials, and advanced technologies to improve the durability, efficiency, and environmental impact of infrastructure projects. By incorporating innovative practices, they have not only addressed immediate needs but also positioned the municipality for future growth and resilience.


The consequences of historically neglected infrastructure that were inherited are far-reaching. Power outages, safety hazards, ineptitudes, and economic impacts are common consequences of failing to upgrade and maintain electrical and water systems. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, it is imperative for the current administration to prioritize investments and implement sustainable strategies to address these challenges effectively. By doing so, communities can benefit from a reliable and safe electrical infrastructure that supports the needs of a modern and thriving society.

Inheriting a bankrupt municipality presents a daunting challenge for any new administration. However, with determination and strategic planning, it is possible to turn the situation around.

A thorough assessment of the financial state, coupled with transparent communication, is what we have been striving towards within the Nama Khoi Local Municipality.

Implementing stringent financial management practices, pursuing austerity measures, and seeking assistance from higher levels of government and external organizations to help stabilize the situation.

Engaging the community and fostering partnerships are vital to stimulate economic growth and attract investments.

By demonstrating resilience and resourcefulness, a bankrupt municipality can embark on a path towards financial recovery and revitalization, which is our main goal.

The tireless efforts of the current municipal leadership and management in tackling the ageing infrastructure of the municipality are commendable. Through comprehensive assessments, strategic planning, collaboration, innovative solutions, and transparent communication, they have paved the way for significant improvements. By prioritizing infrastructure upgrades and maintenance, they are ensuring the provision of efficient and reliable services for the community, while also creating a solid foundation for future development and growth.



For any further enquiries:

Jason Milford



Last modified: June 6, 2023

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