Feud over illegal connections in Mfuleni

The fight between residents of formal houses and informal houses has left this house with broken window panes and blinds.

Nozibele Mathesa of Phase 4, in Mfuleni, cried profusely last Thursday after her house was stoned by “heartless people” who broke almost all her windows because of an argument about illegal electricity connections.

She watched in despair as residents from the neighbouring informal settlement, Sondela, vandalised her house.

She now lives in fear of her life.

Speaking to Vukani on the day of the attack, she said she held her head in her hands when the irate residents entered her yard because there is an electricity pole where wires are connected illegally on the property.

The wires were cut off by residents in formal houses from the other side of the street because the illegal connections affect them badly.

She said the tiff between the two communities is a long-standing one.

It started in 2017 when the Sondela informal settlement was created and those residents started illegally connecting wires to get electricity.

She said it was the beginning of many problems because residents from the formal houses started to complain of power cuts and damaged appliances.

“On Wednesday we had a meeting when they passed every house, entering my yard, throwing stones and hurling insults at me.

“They even threatened to torch my house and those who rent with me. It was a painful experience because I have nothing to do with electricity.

“The residents are complaining about it. I also complain because I have to buy electricity now and then. I have to repair a lot of my electrical appliances,” she said with tears flowing down her cheeks.

The mother of two said she was forced to send her children away and instructed her tenants to also go somewhere else.

However, she refused to leave her home.

“It was really sad to see that happening by people to another person’s property. I once lived in an informal settlement but I have never stolen electricity. I had to ask people. I paid.

“Why don’t they want to pay? When they came, I closed my eyes, put my hands on my head because I was convinced they were going to demolish my house.

“Men and children acting like animals. I have never seen such cruelty,” she told Vukani.

Community members said formal households are often without electricity due to illegal connections from the poles to their houses.

Residents said the problem keeps them in darkness and cold during winter.

A man who said he was once a street committee member and who was only willing to identify himself as Zizi, said the blame should go to their councillor Thembisile Batembu.

Zizi said they have had numerous meetings with the councillor.

He said now the problem has taken another level where people might die.

“Surely you have seen the house they stoned. That will culminate in many deaths.

“People will not sit back with folded arms while attacked for their legal things. Somebody needs to wake up and solve this before it escalates into a mini war,” he warned.

In response, the councillor said he is fully aware of what is happening between the two communities. “Let me explain to you. The problem is about illegal connections of electricity by informal houses. It leads to stripping of electricity to the formal side. I have intervened, not only once. At some point I included the City officials.

“I must commend the formal house owners, they have endured the pain since 2017. Every winter this comes up, the fighting starts. But we had meetings with both sides but there are no solutions because we go out as if all is well but it happens again,” said Mr Batembu.

He said he was shocked with the recent fighting incident. He said the only solution would be the relocation of the informal settlement.

He said that is on the agenda but it will not happen overnight.

He said he also had two meetings with the leadership of both sides in April but they still fight.

He appealed for calm until a solution is found.

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