Two communities embroiled in dispute over eletricity

Mxenge residents watch on as police disperse a feuding group.

Police and law enforcement were called in to quell a tense situation between the residents of Victoria Mxenge township and those from the nearby Ramaphosa squatter camp.

The Mxenge residents are accusing the Ramaphosa lot of illegally connecting electricity from a sub-station servicing their area, leading to power outages.

This has resulted in many physical fights between the residents, and one elderly woman was admitted to hospital after sustaining injuries.

On Thursday night a group of elderly women from Mxenge held a night vigil calling for an end to the attacks by informal settlement dwellers.

One resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said people from Mxenge have been asking for protection from the City of Cape Town and police ever since the fights began, but to no avail.

“They have now taken it upon themselves to now take turns in holding night vigils and patrols to keep themselves safe from the ongoing feud with violent men who feel entitled to their property,” he said.

He said the men, mostly from Ramaphosa, were young and armed and were forceful when connecting to the electricity.

“Never mind the current Covid-19 virus spread crisis, there is non-stop fighting here, near fatal attacks with petrol bombs and direct threats of bodily harm.

“Several distress calls to the powers that be have still yielded no results towards stabilising the situation. I still ask, if this was happening at the Waterfront or in the suburbs would this desperately dangerous situation be allowed to continue?” he added.

Councillor Phindile Maxiti, the City’s mayoral committee member for energy and climate change said the City had made every effort to resolve this problem over the past two or three years. “The Ramaphosa informal settlement was created through an illegal land invasion on privately-owned land.

“The law does not permit the City to install services on privately owned land without the permission of the owner,” he said.

He said illegal connections and the theft of electricity thus occurred which has constrained the supply to neighbouring communities and severely damaged City infrastructure.

More than R2 million had been spent to date by the City to maintain and secure electricity supply to the neighbouring communities, he said.

“Some community members from the informal settlement or possibly even syndicates have been tapping illegally into the existing electrical infrastructure, be it from overhead lines, underground cables, public lighting poles or distribution kiosks. This level of expenditure without realising any benefit for the intended community cannot be sustained and has the risk of being classified as fruitless and wasteful expenditure,” Mr Maxiti said.

He said the City’s Energy and Climate Change Directorate is willing to engage with anyone with a proposal for an immediate sustainable and legally allowable solution, other than the electrification of the informal settlement which is currently not an option because of the private land ownership.

Residents are encouraged to report damage to municipal infrastructure including electricity theft and outages to the City’s call centre on 0860 103 089, by SMS to 31220, or by email to power@capetown.gov.za.

“While the City commends the members of the Mxenge community for taking ownership of the community infrastructure, they must please be careful of criminals and apply to the South African Police Service as this is a criminal matter,” Mr Maxiti said, adding that the City continued to fix damaged infrastructure and to attend to the power supply of this area as best possible.