Disconnections halted

2013-08-14 00:00

UMNGENI Municipality’s drive to remove illegal electricity connections ground to a halt yesterday after angry community members in Mpophomeni forced the contractors out of the area.

The municipality was pursuing its Operation Stop Electricity Theft, which was announced last week.

On Monday, the contractors disconnected 30 households that were found to be siphoning off electricity illegally.

But yesterday the community staged a protest, during which they burned tyres and allegedly intimidated contract workers, preventing them from disconnecting other illegally connected households.

The operation has been temporarily suspended, pending increased security for the contracted staff and allocation of police officers to accompany them.

Police spokesperson Captain Lolly Moodley said police went to the area to monitor the situation and they will continue to monitor there.

“The municipality should inform us when they want to resume the operation so that we can accompany them,” he said.

Community member Rogers Buthelezi said the council did not inform them that they would be disconnecting illegal electricity connections.

“We view this as harassing the community, because we were never notified that this is what the municipality had planned,” he said.

He said they felt that the 100 W of free basic electricity was inadequate because their community was mostly made up of pensioners, child-headed households and unemployed people.

“It is not as though we are refusing to pay for services, but all we are asking is for the municipality to sit with us so that we can also tell them about our challenges, which lead to certain households having to connect illegally,” he said.

Other community members vowed to stop contract workers from carrying out their task. They want the municipality to connect their electricity and said if this did not happen, they would do it themselves.

They added that some of those who were disconnected had reported that their electricity boxes had been damaged by lightning, but were never repaired, which resulted in people connecting illegally.

They vowed to connect illegally if council refuses them electricity.

uMngeni Municipality spokesperson Thando Mgaga said it was not true that the municipality did not inform the community.

“We sent notices and we even placed the notification in newspapers,” he said.

Mgaga said the municipality was considering opening a case of intimidation after staff contracted to the municipality were prevented from their task of disconnecting electricity in illegally connected households.

He said on Monday that the municipality’s Operation Stop Electricity Theft resumed, which resulted in the complete removal of electricity services in 30 households that were stealing electricity.

Mgaga said the situation escalated and soon turned volatile, which led to the municipal management instructing the contractor and its staff to retreat for safety reasons.

Municipal manager Dr Mpilo Ngubane said the municipality spends R5 million per month to purchase electricity from Eskom, which it supplies to the Mpophomeni township, but does not get anything in return.

“This is putting our municipality in a financially challenging situation. We will not allow a situation where some residents siphon electricity from us illegally and get away with it, whereas there are some residents who pay diligently,” said Ngubane.

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