Residents go on rampage over electricity

Ward councillor Monde Nqulwana stands next to his demolished shack.

Khayelitsha residents, angry about the delayed electrification of their shacks, looted a community hall, destroyed a councillor’s home and barricaded streets with rubble, rubbish and burning tyres last week.

The rioters tore down ward councillor Monde Nqulwana’s Site B shack, stoned his car, burnt his clothes and stole some of his possessions.

At the Mew Way Hall, they stole chairs, tables and computers, smashed windows and stripped wiring from the walls.

The riots started on Tuesday last week. Residents of RR Section informal settlement barricaded the streets.

The situation was calm as Vukani went to print this week, but Mr Monde told how he had tasted residents’ fury last week.

While his home is now a ruin, other residents had salvaged some of his belongings.

He said according to a deal between the residents, the City and Eskom, RR Section should have been electrified last year. But there had been a delay because the City had not given Eskom permission to start with the electrical installations.

Mr Nqulwana said he had always communicated with the community leaders and had expected them to address the community.

“My house has been destroyed. But still there is no electricity. I’m not holding up the processes of installing electricity,” he said, adding he had fought to make it happen.“Mew Way Hall has been destroyed. What if there is another huge fire? Where will people be housed?

“We should teach the society to preserve and protect community assets.

“Does the burning of streets and damaging properties bring electricity?”

He had met with residents and community leaders just days before the riots to give them feedback and tell them he had called mayor Patricia de Lille to confirm the schedule for the project.

Some of the RR community leaders had walked out of that meeting, he said.

He said he understood the community’s frustration as he himself lived in a shack and used a communal tap and toilets.

“When things like this happen, they break your morale and work ethic.

“It seems like that people do not appreciate the fact their leadership lives with them and understands their concerns.

“My aim is that I want this area of Ward 89 to develop with me. The electricity will be installed as the mayor has committed to that.”

What he had been through showed government needed to do more to keep ward councillors safe.

“I’m not safe, but I always believe that my protection should come from the community,” he said.

Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services; and energy, said RR Section, as part of the greater Khayelitsha, was in an Eskom-supply area.

The City’s role was limited to assisting Eskom with community engagement and relocation of structures if necessary.

She denied the City was responsible for delaying the electrification project: Eskom still needed approval for the project from its own investment committee and that was only likely to happen on Thursday July 12.

Should that approval be granted, construction was planned to start on Friday September 21.

City officials had met with community leaders last Thursday and would meet with RR Section leadership today, Thursday, June 28, to tell them of those plans.

Eskom did not respond to questions by the time this edition went to print.