Illegal power cables cut

2013-05-17 00:00

DEALING with what was described as a disaster waiting to happen, Msunduzi Municipality yesterday removed more than a ton of cables used to illegally electrify Jika Joe informal settlement.

Cables were run to the settlement across an open field behind Waterbok flats from the sub-station at the corner of Bulwer Street and Echo Road. The sub-station feeds Echo, Ohrtmann, Willowton and Manor roads and Bulwer Street.

It took municipal employees more than four hours to remove the cables.

Msunduzi revenue services supervisor Anthony Patrick said residents at the flats complained on Wednesday afternoon of continuous power outages, and electricity officials investigated.

“We spotted a group of men carrying torches in the field behind the flats. As we approached, the men ran away, but we managed to apprehend one, who was taken to Loop Street police station. They [Jika Joe residents] call this ‘the people’s connection’. We don’t know if they understand the danger of this exercise,” said Patrick.

He said stolen telephone cables were used to make the connections.

Earlier, municipal security guards fired shots after residents at a Mkondeni informal settlement became violent as municipal workers removed illegal cables connected to a transformer.

Waterbok flat residents, who spoke on condition of anonymity, say they were concerned for the safety of their children.

“There’s no perimeter fence separating the field and this property. We keep our children locked indoors for fear that they would tumble on to these cables and get electrocuted,” said one.

They said the problem had been ongoing for some time and they were threatened when they tried to stop those making the connections. “Once you talk, they swear at you; they threaten you with all sorts of weapons. They say if they can’t have electricity, then we can’t have this service either. A professional electrician is helping these people to do the connections,” said another resident.

A small group of people, supposedly residents of Jika Joe, became hostile when The Witness approached them for comment.

“They are wasting their time by removing those cables. We won’t stop until they electrify this place,” said one of the men.

Last year, Msunduzi Municipality said it had a plan to electrify all informal settlements to avoid electricity theft.

Pre-paid meters were to be installed at the Jika Joe, Ezinketheni, Swapo, Triumph Road, Balhambra Way, Masons Mill and Beech Road informal settlements.

The Auditor-General’s report for the 2011/2012 financial year stated that Msunduzi was losing R90 million a year on illegal electricity connections by informal settlement residents.

It was reported that it would cost R38,2 million to install the meters in all settlements.

Municipal spokesperson Brian Zuma said the electrification of informal settlements was in progress, and that it had started in Copesville.

“We appeal to people to stop this [illegal connections] because it puts their and their children’s lives at risk … People who can’t afford to buy electricity must come forward so that they can be granted indigent status,” he said.

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