After years of pleading for their homes to be formally supplied with electricity, residents of Mangaung informal settlement in Phillipi East say their lives have changed for the better.
On Thursday June 10, residents of the informal settlement got their wish when The City of Cape Town’s Mayco member for energy and climate change, Phindile Maxiti, dignitaries and Eskom officials, switched on the electricity to about 371 households in the informal settlement.
The joint R4.5 million project between the City and Eskom, was launched in March and Mr Maxiti thanked the residents of the informal settlement for their patience.
“On Thursday, we celebrated with the beneficiaries at the official switch-on. We are immensely proud of the work done to connect the families to the electricity grid and as a result of this partnership with Eskom, more than 371 households now have electricity for the first time,” he said.
He said the electrification project not only contribute to an improved quality of life for the residents, but also boost business prospects.
However, he also called on residents to ensure the infrastructure was not vandalised. “We remind residents to help the City protect infrastructure by reporting electricity theft, vandalism and illegal connections to the City or to the South African Police Service,” said Mr Maxiti.
Mangaung informal settlement was one of the many hot spots identified across the City, where illegal connections were rife. Most outages around Philippi East and the surrounding areas were said to be due to, among others, overloading caused by illegal connections.
Residents who spoke to Vukani said they were relieved they would no longer have to pay hefty sums to a fellow resident who was allegedly stealing electricity from the neighbouring area and supplying it to them.
Before the electrification of the area, it was not uncommon to see power cables running along the ground or creating a web of connections over the community.
One of the beneficiaries, unemployed mother Nosiviwe Nogqala who depends on a social grant, said overhanging cables posed a danger to children in particular.
“We relied too much on izinyokanyoka and it was too dangerous for us and the children. We lost so many electric appliances due to these illegal connections,” she said.
“I am too excited with the electrification even though now I will have to buy electricity. I am tired of paying a man to always reconnect me illegally.
“Life was tough before this connection. We would hire a ladder from this man for not less than R200 and still pay him for his services around R350 per household. Remember this happened now and then. Life will now change for good,” she told Vukani at her home.
Another beneficiary, Vuyokazi Stimela, shared these sentiments.
“I am lost for words,” she said. “We have paid too much money to enrich one man to steal electricity for us. We were forced to do that because we wanted electricity. Our situation was bad, especially in winter time. The cable would burst and go off all the time. ”
The electrification of the area, however, will not solve all the problems of the residents of the informal settlement who still live largely in squalid conditions. Littered streets, water leakages, and raw sewage flooding the area are some of the problems residents face – and they are desperate for formal housing.