Another electricity death

2013-09-30 00:00

THE scourge of electricity theft in the city caused another death in Pietermaritzburg this weekend, while another victim narrowly escaped electrocution last week due to electricity thieves.

Early yesterday morning the body of Lucky Mzila, believed to be in his 30s, was found lying dead in a ditch in Regina Road, Northdale, on top of a number of illegal electrical cables that snaked their way upward to a nearby informal settlement.

Earlier this month pensioner Esther Mungal (67) of Copesville narrowly escaped death after being shocked by an illegal connection running through her yard in Copesville.

Mungal’s son Jonathan warned Msunduzi Municipality to act with urgency to stop these electricity thieves. “If anything happens to my mother, I will hold them to account,” he said.

Mzila also appears to be an innocent victim of the scourge. According to residents, he did not live in the informal settlement, but in a home in the neighbourhood. The residents, who all refused to be named for fear of victimisation by those stealing electricity, said that they understood that Mzila did not return home last night. His friends went looking for him in the morning and found his body.

ER24 spokesperson Vanessa Jackson said paramedics who were called out to the scene suspected that he had been electrocuted.

Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane confirmed that they have opened an inquest docket. Attempts to get hold of Mzila’s family proved unsuccessful yesterday as there was no one at the house identified by neighbours as his residence.

However, the neighbours are angry about being surrounded by illegal cables.

They acknowledge that the municipality is frequently in the area removing the illegal connections. A resident said: “The electricity vans are barely at the bottom of the hill, when the illegal cables are being re-connected. Today it is Lucky, who will it be tomorrow?”

Mungal, describing her ordeal, said she hung in the air for at least three minutes after she touched the fence at her home, unaware that illegal electricity connections to an informal settlement nearby were running through it.

She said when the current broke, she was flung to the ground with such impact that she sustained a broken arm and two broken shoulders. Both her shoulders had to be operated on and she received at least 65 stitches in the shoulders.

Mungal said she is now fearful of stepping out. “These wires are very fine, you cannot see them … after what happened there, I get nightmares,” she said.

Msunduzi spokesperson Brian Zuma said it was unfortunate that the municipality’s constant pleas to communities to stop stealing electricity were falling on deaf ears. He assured Mungal’s family that Msunduzi was committed to the electrification of informal settlements as a means of stopping the mushrooming of illegal connections. Zuma added that besides the electrification programme, they had teams from the electricity department going out daily removing tons of illegal cables. “People are dying, we cannot be complacent,” he said.

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