Power for shacks but not for houses

Without electricity, Philippi resident Wele Vukwana has nowhere cold to store food.

The sight of live electricity wires hanging on poles greeted Vukani at Thaleni Crescent in Philippi.

An electric transformer was wide open with wires running to the informal settlement of Phantsi Kocingo.

The connections provide those in the shacks with electricity but have left residents in the nearby formal houses with no power, and they are pleading for help from the City of Cape Town.

In addition to the inconvenience caused, they have lost appliances over the years as these have been damaged by power surges every time the electricity gets turned off and on. Residents Wele Vukwana and Khumbulani Booi said they had been desperately trying to get help from their councillor, Nkululeko Mgolombane.

They said they had also visited the City of Cape Town’s Fezeka offices, but all they had come back with were unfulfilled promises.

“This problem started way back in 2018. It has been a norm that we must be without electricity while informal settlement residents have it. It has been a bad experience for us because we have lost not only electricity but our appliances to this nonsense,” said Mr Vukwana.

He said now that it was winter there was a possibility that the mild tension between the two communities could reach boiling point.

That could be avoided if the authorities stepped in, Mr Vukwana said.

“What stops the government from relocating those people or giving them their own electricity. What is amazing is that they have also built their shacks in a park. Our children have no place to play. The same people are now stealing electricity causing a blackout for us.”

Frustrated, Mr Booi said shack dwellers tampered with transformers in plain sight.

“The councillor has openly refused to act. I heard my friend saying the problem started in 2018 but the truth is, it is over five years now. All we need now is to get back our electricity,” he said.

Things have been difficult, especially now during the pandemic, he said.

“We have to buy paraffin, and those who sell it have inflated the prices. Children are back to school, they have to wake up early and put water on. We have phones but we cannot charge them. We must go to nearby houses to ask. We need help from the government,” he said.

Mr Mgolombane said the problem would continue for as long as the City did not relocate the informal settlement.

“I am fully aware of that problem. It is very long. I have endured insults and unprintable words from both communities saying I do not care about them. When we were in Sub-council 18, we promised that they would be removed. Now that we are under Sub-council 13, there is no talk of that. Remove them and see if there will be a problem,” he said.

Vukani asked the City of Cape Town for comment but they had not responded by the time of going to print.