Kassanda traders count losses as power shutdowns continue

Thursday May 23 2019

At work. Ronald Kyabasinga repairs some of the

At work. Ronald Kyabasinga repairs some of the generators at his workshop in Bukuya Town, Kassanda District on Tuesday. PHOTO BY JESSICA NABUKENYA 

By JESSICA NABUKENYA

KASSANDA. When Ronald Kyabasinga opened up an electronics’ repair workshop in Bukuya Town Council, Kassanda District last year, customers started flocking to his shop because of his good customer care.

“They [clients] were bringing items such as radios, television sets and others, but I realised the problem was with the unstable electricity supply in this area where their appliances experienced electric shocks time and again,” Mr Kyabasinga says.
He is currently repairing generators.

A sizable number of traders in the town have switched to using generators due to constant power outages. The problem, according to traders, has persisted for more than three months.

“The only source of power now is either a generator or solar supply because one cannot rely on electricity supplied by Umeme, [national power distributor],” he says.

At his workshop are clients queuing to have their generators fixed.
Elsewhere around Bukuya Trading Centre, generators are a common sight at almost every shop and workstation.

Among the most affected businesses are hair salons, electric appliance shops, welding workshops as well as coffee, maize and timber mills.

This problem, according to Mr Musa Ogwang, a trader in Bukuya Town Council, has contributed losses in their businesses.

“This problem has persisted for long, but we are not getting clear explanations from Umeme. The last time they [Umeme] came here, they told us that the problem is with the small weak transformer. They replaced it with another, but the problem still persists, we are losing hope,” he says

Currently, most traders, whose businesses run on high power voltages such as welders, have temporarily closed due to constant power outages.

“I used to employ eight people here and most of them are young boys who dropped out of school, but I have been forced to send four of them away because they are so redundant here. I am also planning to discontinue the rest because I do not want them to keep playing from here without doing any work, they can even get involved in bad behaviours,” Mr Moses Ssebwato, who runs a metal welding workshop in the town, says.

Mr Asansio Gayi, the Bukuya Town Council vice chairperson, says as local leaders, they have on several occasions petitioned Umeme officials and they are yet to receive a response.
Mr Edward Zziwa Birungi, the Kassanda District vice chairperson, says he had received complaints and that he is going to seek council’s attention.

However, Mr Stephen Ilungole, the Umeme communications manager, says they received the complaint from traders and when they investigated, it was due to rampant illegal connections in the area, especially for trapping grasshoppers.

“They [grasshopper trappers] refused to use the transformer with a power metre, and chose to use another transformer for domestic users. So, the transformer was overwhelmed and could not serve all residents at a go,” he says.

Background
In April 2017, parts of Mubende District and the entire Kibaale District were thrown into darkness for several weeks following the theft of copper cables and angle bars on Mubende –Kakumiro –Kibaale power line. The power company is currently losing Shs106 billion annually from an average of Shs73b in 2014 due to power theft including non-payment of bills, vandalism and illegal connections.

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