Access to stolen electricity more important than safety - shack dwellers

2016-04-13 17:13
(Tammy Petersen, News24)

(Tammy Petersen, News24)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Cape Town - Illegal connections may cause loss of limbs, burns and even death, but in Marikana township in Philippi this seems a small price to pay for access to electricity.

The shackland has been identified by Eskom as the area with the highest prevalence of illegal connections, followed by settlements in Crossroads, Rooidakke in Grabouw, Khayelitsha, Waggebietjie, Marcus Garvey and Witsand.

Officials visited Marikana for a public safety tour on Wednesday to spread awareness of the risks of using illegal and dangerous connections.

But the people benefiting form the illegal connection say that safety concerns pale in comparison with the privilege of having access to electricity.

'How will I pay an electricity bill?'

When Sindi Gwala moved to the settlement two years ago, she cooked her food on an open fire and used candles for light.

"I was here for a week when someone came to my door and asked if I wanted power. He said he charged a fee of R500 to connect it, then I will be able to buy a TV and make my food indoors," she recalled.

"I thought it was a miracle. Electricity is a luxury for me. Where I come from in the Eastern Cape, only the rich can afford to have proper light in their houses. I took a loan to pay him. Two days later, my children watched TV on a set I got from my sister. It was wonderful."

Gwala acknowledges that what she is doing is illegal, but says she would never be able to afford electricity any other way.

"I am a domestic worker. With the money I make right now, I can barely afford to feed and clothe my two small children. How will I pay an electricity bill?" she asked.

"My sister lives in a brick house in Khayelitsha. Her electricity usage is about R800 a month. Sometimes that isn't even enough and they have to sit in the dark because there is no money to buy more units."

Access to electricity is easy in Marikana, Sithembiso Xola told News24.

"Here [there] are quite a few people clever enough to figure this system out. They are not stupid. Some charge a few hundred, while others ask over R1 000 for danger pay," he explained.

"We don't have many shack fires here any more because we don't use candles. We have lights now. Nobody came and gave us the power, so we decided to take it. Eskom can afford to pay [for] it."

'The shack becomes a conductor'

Eskom's Western Cape provincial head, Alwie Lester, said the revenue loss from illegal connections was less than 6%, and that the financial loss took a back seat to the safety ramifications.

He warned that electrocution did not only happen when someone touched a line.

"The cable that they use, [which does not meet regulatory standards], wears through and when it starts to make contact with the metal of the shack, the shack becomes a conductor. 

"We have had multiple incidents where people in their homes have been electrocuted because of an unsafe connection coming from another household."

Attempts by Eskom to disconnect illegal connections can become volatile when communities respond with violence, he said.

It was "frightening" to see the number of people injured by illegal, unsafe connections, Lester added.

"We understand the need of people to be electrified. But our request is if you want to be electrified, you need to make [an official] application."

Read more on:    cape town

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Competition regulation for a growing and inclusive economy

ADVERTORIAL: The Competition Commission of South Africa is conducting advocacy work in the South African automotive aftermarket industry and has gazetted a Draft Code of Conduct for public comment.


Man scores date with tennis superstar after Twitter bet

It’s a modern day Cinderella story, but one American man took ‘shoot your shot’ seriously in 2017.


You won't want to miss...

Who are the highest paid models of 2017?
10 gorgeous plus-sized models who aren't Ashley Graham
5 top leg exercises for men
10 best dressed men of 2017
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.