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Calm restored after electricity protest

Crime & Courts

Durban - Homeowners of Palmiet Road in Clare Estate were trapped in their homes on Sunday as residents from the nearby informal settlement clashed with eThekwini Municipality officials trying to remove illegal electricity connections.

Residents of the settlement barricaded roads, burnt tyres and stoned municipal vehicles and the private security company guarding council officials.

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A protestor throws a tyre into a barricade blocking police and fire department officials from passing through Palmiet Road, Durban.

“We were trapped in our homes and terrified. The workers from the electricity department were being stoned and then there were gun shots. It was really scary. We didn’t know what would happen next. Fortunately the protesters did not damage our property. They just prevented the council from removing their electricity,” said a resident who refused to be named.

Another resident said he supported the municipality’s actions because often he was left without electricity because informal settlers had been stealing electricity causing faults with the power supply.

“We are tired of these power outages. We sometimes go for hours without electricity because of illegal connections and we are the ones paying for it,” he said .

Mnikelo Ndabankulu, spokesman for Informal residents group, Abahali Base Mjondolo, said the only option for the municipality was to electrify the informal settlement.

“Nobody will accept not having electricity when others have it just around the corner.

“These illegal connections are known as ‘peoples connections’ because the people are doing it for themselves when the council cannot provide for them.

“Nobody has said that these informal residents would not pay for electricity if it was provided. They are willing to pay,” said Ndabankulu.

eThekwini municipality spokesman Thabo Mofokeng said council would continue to remove illegal electricity connections.

“We have an ongoing programme to remove illegal electricity connections and we will continue with it. There is a programme to roll out interim services to these informal residents but they must remain patient. We cannot condone violence,” said Mofokeng.

Police confirmed the incident. “A case of public violence is being investigated by Sydenham SAPS. It was reported that the municipality employees were at Palmiet Road to disconnect illegal electrical connections in the area.

“The Sydenham community members mobilised and attacked the municipality employees. No arrests have been made as yet and no injuries were reported,” said police spokesman Captain Thulani Zwane. - POST

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