'We’ll cut down lights …’

2012-07-13 00:00

A RESIDENT of the Nhlalakahle informal settlement in Northdale, who was in the midst of Wednesday evening’s violent demonstration, warned yesterday that the community would cause more chaos unless it was given electricity.

“We still have plenty of tyres. There are tyres everywhere. We will cut down all of these street lights,” said Sibusiso Sibiya (23), warning of more violent protests.

“We want electricity and water. That is all that we want. We are not fighting with anyone,” said Sibiya.

Sibiya, who said he was part of the crowd that burnt tyres and stoned police vehicles, admitted he was one of the residents who were responsible for the illegal connections.

The protest erupted after Msunduzi Municipality sent in a team to disconnect hot-wired cables in the settlement.

“They [the municipality] don’t want to give us electricity, so we will get it ourselves. We voted for them, but they don’t want to help us. If they can give us water and electricity, we won’t fight with them,” he said.

During Wednesday’s protest, teargas canisters were fired into the informal settlement as residents created a barrier with burning tyres to keep police and fire-fighters on the other side of Bombay Road.

Sibiya complained about the teargas, saying that young children, who were not involved, had been affected.

“They didn’t think about them. There are sick children here now who are coughing because of the teargas.

“We are discriminated against because we live in squatter camps and because we are poor,” he said.

“We did nothing wrong. All we did was steal electricity.”

Whenever there were power cuts, he warned, the residents would connect their homes to powerlines.

A resident in Bombay Road across the informal settlement told The Witness anonymously: “We live in fear. Nobody could come out of their house because they were all afraid of what was going on. The neighbours even had their car [which was parked outside] vandalised.”

The riots started after the municipality had gone to the area to remove illegal cables and connections.

A spokesperson for the municipality, Nqobile Madonda, said a municipal team was sent in because “paying customers’ electricity supply in the surrounding area was being continuously compromised by illegal connections”.

She said the connections were overloading the electricity network and destabilising the supply, which resulted in the municipality losing about R30 000 a month.

Police have yet to make an arrest after the violent protest.

Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane warned that “the police will use all available resources to deal with unruly behaviour by members of the public”.

Zwane said Wednesday night’s protesters were “playing a cat-and-mouse game with the police in that they quickly disappeared between the bushes and the mountain terrain”.

“To pursue the protesters under these circumstances would have been suicidal for the police and would have unnecessarily endangered the lives of innocent bystanders,” said Zwane.

It was therefore difficult to identify perpetrators, he said.

When The Witness visited the scene yesterday, there were no police in sight.

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