Durban - Isipingo Hills residents fed up with power cuts caused by illegal connections have resorted to patrolling the streets to deter electricity thieves from a nearby informal settlement.
Mandla Khuzwayo and other residents in Pardy Road and Aster Place have suffered electricity cuts for the fourth time this year, and things are so bad they have formed a crisis committee.
“If we call the police, izinyoka (electricity thieves) just run away and come back when the police are gone.”
An eThekwini Municipality spokesman, Thabo Mofokeng, said they were aware of the problem.
After five days without electricity, residents were hopeful when municipal workers arrived on Sunday. However, they left without having restored the power.
Mofokeng said this was because the workers had been threatened.
“They had to retreat for safety and to organise security and materials. The municipal power cables and fuses were severely damaged due to these illegal connections.”
They returned on Wednesday to replace the cables and fuses, but barely seven hours later, trenches had already been dug exposing electricity cables and the outer rubber covering was stripped away, ready for power to be tapped under the cover of night.
Resident Mandla Khuzwayo, said he and other residents had been keeping watch on Thursday and spotted the power thieves.
“We called the police, but a lookout spotted them and they all ran away. We have no choice but to patrol every night.”
Mofokeng said the city had dedicated teams to remove the illegal connections as well as investigating teams who worked with police to apprehend the illegal connectors.
Khuzwayo said he had lost thousands of rand after having to throw out his Christmas groceries which had spoilt earlier this week before electricity had been restored. “But the (electricity) meter keeps running. My electricity bill once reached R11 000.”
Last year residents went for three weeks without electricity.
“When the lights start flickering, we just know what’s coming.”
At times, they could charge their cellphones but not plug in their fridges. “The power surge is so erratic it has damaged my microwave, fridge and eight kettles.”
Another resident, Nad Naidoo, who has lived in the street for decades, said he was expecting a dark Christmas with his family, some of whom would be coming from Joburg, Cape Town and England.
“We had to bear with a transit camp at our doorstep for eight years. Now we must suffer so they can watch TV at our expense.”
Mofokeng said the city had passed a resolution to electrify informal settlements and transit camps, but could not say when that would be done.
Sipho Khuzwayo (not related to Mandla) does not remember the last time he had hot running water. “Even when there is electricity, the current is not strong enough to power the geyser. We have to boil bath water on the stove. Children cannot study at night.”
David Nsindane said that like many of his neighbours he had no choice but to buy a generator. “I have a three-month-old baby so I could not take a chance and not have electricity in the house.”
Nsindane’s driveway has been dug up by the power thieves to get access to nearby underground cables.
He still gets an electricity bill despite his home being powered by a generator.
“After countless complaints I got fed up and decided not to pay. The municipality was so quick to come and disconnect, but when you call them for help, they take for ever.”
Nsindane lives next to the transit camp. He said he could not move as he would suffer a loss selling his house.
“I don’t really have a problem living so close to them, but I wish the municipality would just give them electricity so they don’t have to steal ours.”