Battle to tackle power theft turns fatal

2013-05-29 00:00

THE battle to combat electricity theft claimed two victims yesterday when a man was killed and another seriously injured during a shooting, allegedly by municipal security officers.

Taxi conductor Sifiso Maphanga (25) had arrived at his home in Nhlalakhahle informal settlement, Northdale, for lunch at midday, but moments later he lay dead.

Taxi marshal Alfred Khanyile (52), who was also hit by a shot allegedly fired by a security official, was rushed to hospital in a serious condition.

Msunduzi municipality staff were disconnecting illegal electricity connections at the time. Electricity theft is rife in the area and has led to running battles between the two groups in the past weeks.

Maphanga was warming his lunch on a fire and Khanyile was heading back to work when the incident happened. According to witnesses, the men were shot from a distance. Police cones on the road indicate where the shot was fired from and the position of Maphanga’s body showed that the men were some distance away.

The witnesses claimed a security officer had deliberately aimed at the two men and fired his shotgun once.

The shot hit Khanyile in his ribcage, arm and buttocks, while Maphanga was shot in the face and died outside his home. His body lay under a blanket in the yard.

Angry residents of the settlement said there was no need for the security officer to shoot as there had not been a confrontation. “One moment he [Maphanga] was alive and the next he is gone … they are so cruel,” said one.

Maphanga’s aunt, Phindile Zondi, said he had come home for lunch. “He worked as a taxi conductor and he came home for lunch, something he does not normally do.”

She said he was warming his food when residents began shouting at municipality officials removing illegal connections.

“The next thing, my neighbours came rushing in to say I should come quickly as he had been shot. When we got there, he was lying on his face and bleeding profusely. The worst injury was to his forehead. I knew it would not help even if we called the ambulance.”

Maphanga died shortly thereafter.

Zitha Khanyile, Khanyile’s brother and a community leader, who saw the shooting, said there had been no confrontation. “They aimed to kill and that is what they did.”

He said about 10 security officers were removing an illegal connection when residents shouted at them from their homes to stop.

“He [the security officer] came here to kill; he said he had a score to settle. Some time ago he was stoned by children and he came here today to settle that score,” said Khanyile.

He said he was shocked by the behaviour of the security officials. “We had a meeting yesterday [Monday] with officials from the municipality, who said we should wait three weeks for their response to our grievances, and today they come here and do this.”

Deputy mayor Thobani Zuma said they were saddened by the incident. “We do not want to see community members being ill treated, and we also do not want to see the security officials being ill treated,” he said.

Police spokesperson Joey Jeevan said the security officer had been arrested on murder and attempted murder charges.

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