‘Forced to live in fear’

2016-04-19 10:36

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Pietermaritzburg - Residents across many Pietermaritzburg suburbs say they are living in fear in the darkness that envelops their areas at night.

This is because street lights in large swathes of the city — including Scottsville, Northdale, Copesville, Eastwood and Prestbury — have not been working for months.

Many are calling on the municipality to fix the lights and restore safety to their streets.

“Where there is darkness, there is fear. When there are no street lights, it creates a playground for criminals and we are forced to live in fear,” said Sumaya Dwarika, one of the many frustrated residents who say that the lack of light also poses a danger to motorists and residents.

“Besides the thieves, there are potholes which you will not notice unless you live in the area and are aware of them. Something needs to be done about this urgently,” added Dwarika.

But the municipality says there are a number of factors that contribute to non-functioning street lights.

“The municipality is faced with the biggest problem of illegal connections. When people connect electricity illegally, they usually choose street lights to make the connections to as it is the easiest [way to do it],” said acting municipal spokesperson Nqobile Madonda.

However, the city also has a lack of resources that contributes to street lights not being fixed in good time.

“Be it human, financial or material, we do not have enough of it all and that is the sad truth,” she said.

Pietermaritzburg North cluster police spokesperson Captain Gay Ebrahim agreed that defective streetlights created a haven for criminal activity.

She said the police liaise with councillors via the community policing fora to get them to address the issue.

A number of residents contacted The Witness to voice their concerns about roads where street lights have been left unattended to for weeks.

“Half of Grimthorpe Avenue is always in darkness. I’ve seen a few cars either drift into the oncoming lane or hit the pavement when a car comes from the opposite direction. It is very dangerous,” said Tevin Junayde.

Deborah Shaik of Steenbok Flats in Ohrtmann Road said that without street lights, the area was being used by drug addicts and merchants.

“We reported the matter to the Loop Street police station and our councillor, but nothing has been done about it. We have had several break-ins and robberies of our vehicles and flats since the street lights have been out,” she said.

Kline Smith said most streets in Scottsville were in total darkness at night, and the “really worrying” factor was for students who work on campus in the evenings.

Roxanne Ortmann said Taunton Road in the Wembley area “never has street lights and early morning cycles tend to be very difficult and dangerous”.

• kailene.pillay@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  safety  |  electricity  |  crime

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