Lights out after theft

2016-07-19 06:00
 Theives dug up cables along Highlands Drive once again plundering a stretch of Jakes Gerwel Drive into darkness. The situation has caused residents to fear or their safety while using the street. PHOTO: City of Cape Town

Theives dug up cables along Highlands Drive once again plundering a stretch of Jakes Gerwel Drive into darkness. The situation has caused residents to fear or their safety while using the street. PHOTO: City of Cape Town

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Efforts to restore lighting to a section of Jakes Gerwel Drive has been hindered by thieves last week.

The electrical supply was cut following violent protests by Siqalo Informal Settlement residents in February (“Road damaged in protest”, People’s Post, 1 March).

Protesters damaged the road surface, barricaded the road way, burnt and damaged traffic lights and dug up electrical cables.

At the time the cost of damages could not be assessed.

As a result of the damage to an electricity control box, the section of Jakes Gerwel Drive between Highlands Drive and the R300 was left in darkness.

The City of Cape Town’s Electricity Services Department attempted to restore the electricity by relaying supply from an alternative box in April, but this was short-lived and the power was cut once more.

The department was eventually able to replace the control box towards the end of June, but a few weeks later thieves have struck again – this time stealing the cables.

The cost of the damage and resultant repairs have been tallied at nearly R20 000.

“We receive ongoing complaints from residents who are justifiably concerned for their safety in the area and it really is disheartening to find yourself back to square one when you’ve just managed to fix the problem,” says Mayco member for Utility Services, Ernest Sonnenberg in a statement.

The stretch is a known smash and grab hotspot and also recently reports of attempted hijackings have surfaced.

One resident told People’s Post that she uses the stretch of road on her morning commute to work.

“It is still dark outside when I leave my house and the stretch of road between Morgenster and Samora Michel is already dangerous enough as it is. But now with the street lights out it has made me even more worried for my safety because I can’t see if anyone is coming from the sides or behind me,” she says.

This is not the first time the City has had to replace lights and robots in the area.

Last year, the City spent millions repairing robots along the road after other protests. “These damages force the City to spend money on repairs that would otherwise have gone towards infrastructure development. These vandals are effectively stealing resources from the poor,” says Macyo member for safety and security JP Smith previously told People’ Post.

The Electricity Services Department is currently considering ways to prevent theft and vandalism of infrastructure in the future so that the City can keep the lights on in this area and other areas affected by cable theft and vandalism.

Between July and December 2015, the Electricity Services Department reported just over R9m in losses as a result of stolen or vandalised equipment.

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