‘Reconnect us or else’

2015-06-12 09:53
Firefighters extinguish burning tyres after Jika Joe residents barricaded the Fitzsimmons Road on Wednesday night.

Firefighters extinguish burning tyres after Jika Joe residents barricaded the Fitzsimmons Road on Wednesday night. (Amil Umraw)

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JIKA Joe residents caused mayhem on Wednesday night, threatening to block the N3 highway after Msunduzi Municipality cut their illegal electricity connections on Sunday.

Freezing in the winter night, a group of about 100 residents burnt tyres and barricaded Fitzsimmons Street, which runs adjacent to the N3 highway.

The residents demanded that the municipality make provisions for electricity at the informal dwelling, “or else”.

The threat was that they would barricade the N3 highway outside the settlement, which is close to the Chota Motala Road off-ramp.

Pietermaritzburg police teamed up with the public order policing (POP) unit to disperse the crowd before a fire truck arrived to extinguish the flames, which soared higher than a single-storey building.

One resident, Tembilihle Magwaza, said Pietermaritzburg residents may call them “violent nuisances” but nobody understands their plight.

A domestic worker in the CBD, Magwaza said it is only when people experience their dire circumstances living in an informal settlement that they will understand why such protests are necessary.

Referring to the home she cleans on a daily basis, Magwaza described the disjuncture between poor and middle class citizens.

“During load shedding the ma’am gets frantic because she cannot cook supper for her family or because she cannot watch her favourite programme on the TV. But then they buy expensive takeaway from KFC and get in their warm beds at night,” Magwaza said.

“But with us, we must watch our children shiver at night and eat cold canned beans and bread. If we do not take the electricity, we will die in the cold.”

Magwaza dared any person to live in an informal settlement for a week to experience how dwellers live before “they judge us for blocking a road and stealing lights [electricity]”.

Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Nqobile Madonda said plans are currently under way to provide electricity to Jika Joe residents in Fitzsimmons Street and Masukwana Road where the Department of Human Settlements has erected temporary structures. However, Madonda said all informal settlements lining the stream under the bridge will not be electrified and residents in those areas are fully aware of that.

“Furthermore there are serious safety concerns with electrifying in those informal settlements. Removal of illegal disconnections is done regularly when it has been identified, and at times when these disconnections are done, residents become violent,” Madonda said

Read more on:    township  |  fire

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