Dying for power: Strand shack dwellers warn of more protests over electricity

2017-09-27 06:24
Noxolo Silala. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Noxolo Silala. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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Cape Town - Three times over the past 20 years, Noxolo Silala from Simanyene in Lwandle, Strand, has had to rebuild her life after losing everything in shack fires which ravaged all she had managed to scrape together with the meagre wages she earns as a domestic worker.

She dreams of safely turning on a light and switching on the kettle to make a cup of tea, or flushing a toilet and running herself a bath after a long day at work.

"But that is never going to happen because, for 20 years, we have been waiting for that day to come. All we get are promises," the mother of five said.

Silala, 50, was among dozens of Lwandle and Nomzamo shack dwellers who took to the streets on Monday, September 25, in a protest to demand service delivery for the Polile, Masakhane, Simanyene, New Village, Siyanyanzela, Freedom Park, Chris Hani Park and Task Team Village informal settlements.

The communities are situated on land owned by the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral).

"For years, the City of Cape Town has been promising us that they will buy the land from Sanral so that services can be provided to us. We have been here since forever," a frustrated Silala said.

"Year in, year out, all we hear is talk. Enough is enough."

Breaking the law for small comforts

She, along with nine other households, lost all their possessions in a blaze in December, 2016. Using a candle for light scares her, she said.

"I have seen the damage that little flame can do. The fire which took everything from me that day was caused by a candle that had fallen over in a neighbour's house. You play with your life if you light it."

People are literally dying for electricity, she explained.

"Look at that," she said, pointing toward multi-coloured cables attached to poles along the highway.

"That is how some of us get electricity. So many people have been electrocuted while trying to get power, especially young people and children because they can climb up to connect it. You have to be izinyoka [cable thieves] to have small comforts like light in your house."

The N2 was closed between Sir Lowry's Pass and Hazeldene on Monday as residents set tyres and rubbish on fire.

Nineteen protesters – 17 men and two women – were charged with public violence and appeared in the Strand Magistrate's Court on Tuesday.

Police spokesperson Captain FC van Wyk said police officers "took action" to disperse the crowd and officers, along with other law enforcement agencies, remained at the scene to defuse the situation.

'We want dignity'

Community leader Vusumzi Madaphu said teargas and rubber bullets were fired at the protesters.

"But we won't back down. It hasn't gotten us anywhere. We will continue with our action because if it's only a once off, they will think we're playing," he warned.

"But we are serious. Our people can't walk to the communal toilets because they can't see in the night. There are no lights, no electricity. They have to use buckets because the loos are also far away. This is an injustice. We want dignity."

City of Cape Town mayoral committee member for Area East Anda Ntsodo on Tuesday said the city was "looking into the concerns raised by the residents. 

"Although we respect the right of residents to protest, this must be done in a peaceful manner that does not infringe on the rights of others," he said.

Nomzamo ward councillor Sitembile Mfecane told News24 that a meeting with the relevant officials was being planned for Wednesday morning to discuss the protesters' demands.

Read more on:    sanral  |  cape town  |  service delivery  |  protests

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