Illegal power strikes

2013-07-12 00:00

AVIWE Vava was eager to return to her home in the Eastern Cape on Sunday to prepare for the reopening of school.

Instead, when classes resume on Monday, her seat will be empty — Aviwe became the latest victim of the illegal electricity connections at the Jika Joe informal settlement yesterday.

Aviwe (6) slipped and, in an attempt to break her fall, grabbed a live wire, electrocuting her.

Neighbours alerted by her screams rushed to help her but their attempts were in vain, as they too received shocks.

Aviwe, from Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape, had been visiting her parents, who live at the settlement, for the school holidays.

She was walking alone in an area near a network of cables used by residents of the settlement to illegally access electricity when she tripped. The wire she grabbed was live, and the force of the shock she received threw her into a nearby river.

She was reportedly the second child in the past two years to be killed as a result of the illegal connections at the settlement, but residents say many more have been shocked or maimed.

Aviwe’s parents were said to have been at work at the time of the incident. Upon hearing the news, her mother fainted and was taken to hospital.

Her aunt, Xolelwa Sidumo, said Aviwe had visited her before going to play with her sister and other children at a nearby playground. That was the last time she saw her niece alive.

“From there I understand that she wandered off, and walked down towards the ­river.

“We later heard that she had been electrocuted while walking down there,” she said.

Sidumo said Aviwe’s death was a tragedy for her family. “She was a lovely child who loved to play … this is very painful for us.”

A resident, who declined to be named, said he was one of the first people at the scene. He said he had tried to help Aviwe but failed. “I run a tuck shop. I heard the screams and I rushed down to help when I heard that the child had been electrocuted.

“When I got there, she was lying by the river bank. We could not go down there to assist because I was now wet and the wire that electrocuted her was also in the water, so I could not go in or I would have been in trouble myself.

“We could not even get close enough to try and help by giving CPR or giving her milk. The police came quickly and they pulled her out, but by then she was gone.

“There are many people who have been paralysed by the electricity connections. Two years ago, another child who had been visiting was killed. Another child was also recently shocked, but we managed to get to him on time.”

He said another girl survived after she accidentally urinated on a live wire and was shocked.

Following Aviwe’s death, Msunduzi officials rushed to the scene to deal with the illegal connections.

The Witness understands they removed illegal connections on Monday, again taking away large quantities of cable.

Msunduzi municipality spokesperson Brian Zuma said the tragedy reinforced the message to residents that stealing electricity and illegal connections were putting the lives of their children in danger.

You’ve been warned

THE Witness has reported on numerous occasions the fears of nearby residents, including those from Manor Flats, and the warnings of the municipality, about the risk of electrocution from the illegal live wires that snake across the settlement and adjacent land.

Ntokozo Cele (3) was electrocuted in May, 2010 when she grabbed a live wire running along the ground at Jika Joe.

The Witness also reported in December 2011 on the death of an unnamed woman from Bulwer who was electrocuted at the informal settlement.

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