North residents dice with death to have electricity

    Resident Tebogo Tshiloane showing some of the power cables supplying power to the shacks running along a stream of water. Photo: file.

    Residents of extension 14 in Soshanguve know that illegal electricity connections are dangerous, but say they have no alternative.

    More than 500 shacks in the area have been illegally electrified, with residents directly connecting to Eskom’s high voltage power lines passing through the area.

    ALSO READ: Child (5) electrocuted by illegal power connection

    “There is nothing we can do. Life must go on. It is cold and we have to boil water to bathe. We need to cook and eat,” said resident Tebogo Tshiloane.

    A network of loose cables, some uncovered, run through the streets of extension 14, each connecting up to five shacks.

    The residents said there were “experts” among them, “who knew what to do when they climbed up the power line to connect”.

    “We know we are risking our lives but what can we do?” said Tshiloane.

    “We have children playing near the wires… near death. And we also risk our lives daily. We do not have any other option.”

    She said their appeals to the municipality for the area to be formalised and to be electrified have fallen on deaf ears.

    “We need basic services. We need electricity to cook, to watch television, to iron our clothes,” said Tshiloane.

    “How can we do all that when we don’t have power?”

    Almost all the shacks in Extension 14 have been electrified illegally.

    “We pay R2 500 to be connected. The monthly fee is between R150 and R200 a shack, depending on who, between our two electricians you chose,” said another resident Pheladi Moela.

    “We do not pay for the electricity we use, we only pay for maintenance of our cables,” said Moela.

    “A long cable is needed for the connection, but it is very expensive. We can’t afford it; that’s why they use uncovered live wires,” said Moela.

    She said the illegal connections posed a serious danger, especially on rainy days.

    Councillor for ward 32 Floyd Thema confirmed there was a general problem of ‘izinyokanyoka’ in the area – illegal connectors.

    “There have been few reported casualties as a result. We condemn illegal connections in the strongest terms possible,” said Thema.

    “Police have come several times to remove the illegal connections, but after they have left, the residents go back to reconnect.”

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    He said together with the residents committee, they were engaging Tshwane MMCs for housing, Mandla Nkomo, and infrastructure, Darrel Moss, to get the area to be formalised.

    Eskom said it remained concerned about the safety of the communities at risk due to the escalating number of illegal connections, meter bypassing, or tampering (electricity theft) and vandalism to electricity infrastructure.

    “Every year, innocent lives are lost as a consequence of the unsafe use of electricity, particularly in the form of illegal connections. We believe that one injury or fatality as a result of unsafe use of electricity is one too many,” the power utility said.

    “Residents and businesses regularly connect to the Eskom network illegally. Not only is this dangerous for the individual making the connection, but it also puts the rest of the community at risk.

    “Illegal connections and electricity theft cause unnecessary power failures and outages that overstretch our resources, slowing down our service delivery to legal power users.”

    Eskom said it has found that most people understood that connecting illegally could be dangerous, but continued to do so.

    ALSO READ: EFF promises free water and electricity

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    David Matsena

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