Eskom battles izinyoka

PHIRI CAWE

Power utility, Eskom, hopes to do away with unnecessary deaths caused by illegal connections, cable theft and money mongers.

The power giant said it was concerned that while some people received their electricity legally, there were those who endangered their lives – and those of others – by opting for illegal connections.

In a move to prevent fatalities, the company has set aside R40 million to protect the lives of innocent people, especially children.

During a media briefing at its head quarters in Bellville, ahead of a tour to Marikana informal settlement in Philippi, the power utility said it was mainly concerned about the death of children, noting that between 2014 and March this year, 25 lives had been lost, with children accounting for 30 percent of them.

Alwie Lester, Eskom’s Western Cape Provincial head, said in a growing city like Cape Town where there were many informal settlements, illegal connections and electricity theft were major problems.

He said the growing number of informal settlements forced people to resort to making illegal electricity connections, adding that connections from sub-stations, neighbours’ meter boxes and transformers were all examples of illegal connections.

Mr Lester appealed to people to apply for electricity, but warned they would not electrify informal settlements on private land.

“It is not surprising that there is a significant demand for electricity in the township. But people need to do things right,” he said.

“We want to avoid electricity-related injuries and fatalities in all our communities,” said Mr Lester.

But, he said, the company’s interventions were often met with resistance. He said in areas such as Khayelitsha there were syndicates that stole the cables and that vandals and thieves normally left hazardous wires exposed, putting people’s lives in danger. He said some of the risk areas included Marikana, Crossroads, Marcus Garvey and RR Section.

During a tour to Marikana, residents said they had no choice but to illegally connect their electricity.

They said they were aware that their actions were illegal.

Resident Elvis Mamputi said they were not allowed access to electricity because they were on private land illegally.

“We know how to prevent the danger of being electrocuted. Even at homes we have our own preventative measures. We cannot wait for Eskom’s processes to have electricity. If they are not giving us electricity, we will continue with these illegal connections,” said the defiant resident.

Wakhe Qhingana said they were prepared to die to get electricity. He said they had occupied the land that is now Marikana illegally so they were not expecting anyone, including Eskom, to give them electricity.

“We came here and stayed here under difficult circumstances. There is no other way to get electricity but illegally. We are fully aware that what we are doing is wrong and it is risky, but we had to do it. Look we are willing to pay for a legal connection but the truth is we will no get it,” he said.