Tembisa's residents battle to connect to power

HAZARD An open meter in Nairobi Avenue in Ehlanzeni in Tembisa
HAZARD An open meter in Nairobi Avenue in Ehlanzeni in Tembisa

In the day the power trips now and then – but at night it is a different story.

This is because most shack dwellers have returned to their homes and have connected power illegally.

Nairobi Avenue in Vusimuzi section in Tembisa is at the centre of an illegal connection war between shack dwellers and residents.

Tavern owner Abraham Moswane said his business had been badly affected by this. He had also lost out on rental monies after his tenants moved out because of the ongoing power cuts.

“Until they fix the [meter] box, I will not pay the rent. I have lost customers and tenants because of this electricity issue,” he said.

Moswane alleged residents’ pleas to the council for the area to be cordoned off and electricity meters to be covered had fallen on deaf ears.

The residents are now fed up with paying for services they do not get from Ekurhuleni municipality (Rabasotho).

ILLEGAL LINES The shack dwellers from Nairobi Avenue in Ehlanzeni/Vusimizi, Tembisa, bridge electricity illegally from meter boxes to get power to their shacks. Since 2016 residents of this street have called for help from the municipality and the police to end the stealing of electricity by neighbouring shack dwellers. Picture: Mpumelelo Buthelezi

They said they had been asking the municipality to help them remove illegal electricity connections.

“They [the shack dwellers] are stealing electricity like hell in this area,” said Moswane.

“They [council electricians] have just disconnected the cables now – but later people are coming back from work and they will connect the cables again and we will be back to the normal way – having on-and-off electricity.

What saddens me the most is that we pay for the electricity and the water, but these people are ‘stealing’ from us. They do not pay rent, their stands are illegal, they have free water and electricity which is paid by us

However, the illegal dwellers have hit back saying they have nowhere else to go.

A shack dweller, who did not want to be identified, said she did not see anything wrong with the illegal connections.

“They [the shack dwellers] want the municipality to treat them like those in the houses.” She claimed their stands were legal and they were in the right place.

“I do not see anything wrong because we do not know how long we have to wait for electricity – maybe 20 years,” she said, adding that she supported those who connected illegally.

“Those who live in the houses are badly affected because they pay rent; but those who stay in the shacks need electricity too. They do not care about us, we vote but nothing happens.”

However, residents are up in arms and want action to be taken now.

Moswane said the illegal connections had been going for more than two years and the council kept on making empty promises.

When they [electricians] come here, they do not do anything. They just say: ‘Oh, and it is indeed damaged.’ Then they leave. Sometimes they disconnect the cables but later the shack dwellers come back and connect the cables again.

He alleged that all the municipality did was to give them reference numbers and promise to come and fix the issue but they never delivered.

Another home owner Sfiso Makhanya said his family had resorted to using a primus stove.

He alleged a doctor told them that his three-month-old baby was affected by the smoke from the stove.

His 13-year-old was burnt by the stove four weeks ago.

Other residents had resorted to buying generators to survive but they were still paying for services they did not receive.

Last week the residents delivered a memorandum to the Department of Human Settlements and the municipality demanding to be protected from the shack dwellers.

City of Ekurhuleni spokesperson Themba Gadebe said five people were arrested for illegal connections.

“We can confirm that officials from the Energy Department and Metro Police visited Vusimusi / Ehlanzeni to disconnect illegal electricity connections and five arrests were made. This follows 56 arrests in the same area on 12 September,” said Gadebe.

He said the City lost close to R800 million a year in unaccounted electricity caused by illegal power connections.

“The residents who claim that they have not being assisted since 2016 need to provide the City with proof of electricity purchase, metre number and reference number so that they can be assisted or alternatively visit their nearest Customer Care Centre.”

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