Copesville left in the dark

2011-10-14 00:00

TENSIONS are simmering among Copesville residents as dwellers in the formal housing sector blame illegal connections by informal residents for the fact that they have been in the dark since Sunday.

Street lamps have been tampered with to supply the informal residents with electricity.

Formal housing residents in Copesville told The Witness that electricity supplies have been irregular for nearly two weeks, but since Sunday their power has been off.

Tuckshop owners and residents have complained of having to throw away rotten food due to the outage.

Metres of red and black wires used for illegal connections are wired from street lamps to houses on the informal housing section.

Severed electricity cables lie strewn on the road.

Residents of the informal side told The Witness that as long as the municipality delays installing electricity for them they will continue to steal it.

Said a resident who did not want to be named, “There will be war until the municipality gives us electricity. We have been living without electricity since 1994.”

The resident said they wait to see when the formal sector is connected and then they hot-wire the power. That’s when the outages occur.

Last month the municipality, backed by the police, swooped on residents in Swapo C to cut all illegal connections, which are costing the council millions of rands each month.

A tense stand-off with the police ensued.

Defiant residents told The Witness at the time they were not worried by the disconnections and would hot-wire the cables as soon as the police and municipal workers left.

Municipal electricity employees, who declined to be named, said illegal connections continue almost every day.

Said a resident, Zakhele Mkhize, “The municipality must just give us electricity and this will go away. What is happening now is that the infrastructure is being destroyed.”

Electricity manager Maxwell Mthembu told the council’s infrastructure services committee on Tuesday that a contractor was sent to Copesville in March last year to start this project, but he was withdrawn when funds ran out.

“Out of 4 500 households that were counted in January 2010, only 1 800 are eligible to receive electrical connections due to the topography and the nature of structural houses.

“The average cost per connection is R4 500, totalling R8,1 million,” Mthembu said.

Msunduzi’s Nqobile Madonda said the council has applied for funding from the Department of Energy to address the electricity supply problems.

Madonda said people in the area threaten to shoot municipal officials and have pelted them with stones when they attend to vandalised infrastructure.

“We only attend to the problem under protection,” she said.

Ward councillor Thandi Ndlovu said people must be patient while the municipality deals with the matter.

• thandom@witness.co.za

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