Tensions run high over electricity connections

This is the substation which the leaders of Philippi argued Ward 34 councillor Fikiswa Nkunzana wanted to connect eletricity from.

Community leaders from Phozolo, Ngulube and Thaleni streets in Philippi have accused ward councillors Fikiswa Nkunzana and Nkululeko Mgolombane of allowing Xhwith’Inja informal settlement residents to illegally connect to the electricity supply from their main substation.

These areas fall under the leadership of Mr Mgolombane in Ward 80, while Xhwith’Inja informal settlement falls under the leadership of Ms Nkunzana in Ward 34.

The leaders argued that around December last year they were shocked to learn that a dugout had been made from Ward 34 straight to their main substation and an electricity cable had been connected to it.

The City, however, said they were in the process of rolling out electricity connections in the area.

Community leader, Zamuxolo Mankayi, said last Tuesday they decided to cut the cable and disconnect it from their main substation before handing it over to police officers.

Mr Mankayi said for five years residents of Thaleni and Ngulube streets were living in the dark after this substation was damaged by illegal connections.

But last year they stood up and challenged the City to fix it.

In turn, the residents were asked to ensure no more illegal connections were made because the substation could only support a limited number of connections.

This request from the City, said Mr Mankayi, they took back to residents and backyarders in their ward and asked them to respect it.

“We have our own informal settlement residents in the area and they have not connected electricity from the substation.

“We have bought more than 56 padlocks to lock all the mini substations in the area so that no one can connect electricity illegally. Every household in the area had to pay R100 towards this.

“The only people that should be connected from that substation are people from our ward – not other people from other wards.

“Ms Nkunzana connects electricity without having a meeting with the leaders of this area,” he claimed.

“We have tried countless times to have a meeting with our ward councillor but she is nowhere to be found.

“At one time, Ms Nkunzana visited some of the leaders and confronted the leader as to why they were refusing to allow the connection,” he said.

Another community leader, Khumbulani Booi, said they had spent most of last year guarding the substations and rarely slept at home.

Residents have opted put padlocks on their substations.

Ask to weigh in on the matter, mayoral committee member for energy and climate change, Phindile Maxiti, told Vukani there was a formal electrification project under way at the Xhwith’Inja informal settlement, which was being carried out by the City of Cape Town.

He said the community leaders from Phozolo, Ngulube and Thaleni streets in Philippi did not want the transformer in their area to electrify the neighbouring Xhwith’Inja community – even though the City had identified this transformer as best suited to supply the Xhwith’Inja with electricity.

“Last week, City officials met with the community members who oppose this project,“ he said.

“Our officials assured the community that the capacity of the transformer is more than capable of handling the added load of supplying electricity to the neighbouring community. The City will continue to engage with the community on the way forward.”

Ms Nkunzana said when she heard that the cables had been cut, she said, she had tried to have a meeting with the leaders of the area but unfortunately had to go Eastern Cape before she could sit down with them.

But she emphasied that the process of getting electricity for the residents in her ward had been spearheaded by the City and that she had merely submitted a request to the City to electrify the area.

Mr Mgolombane refuted the claims that he had permitted the connection to take place and said he had not known about the plan to electrify the area until Ms Nkunzana informed him that the leaders from his area were refusing to allow the connection of electricity.

He said it was his understanding that it was the City’s prerogative to decide where and how to connect electricity.

However, he added, he had tried to have a meeting with the leaders together with Ms Nkunzana, but it had ended prematurely because the leaders had become hostile.