CAPE TOWN - The devastated mother of four-year-old Ophayo Tukushe, who was electrocuted as a result of illegal power connections, has laid the blame at the feet of the George municipality for not attending to the issue, after her mother was electrocuted at the same fence the next day.
Siyanda Tukushe said her son was playing with other children in the backyard of their Thembalethu home on Saturday when she heard screaming and crying.
Ophayo had touched an energised fence that ran past her home to nearby informal settlements.
“When I went outside my child was already dead. Later, I found out that the child was electrocuted by the fence. I was told that people from the informal settlement illegally connected their wires on our fence,” Tukushe said.
The following day, Tukushe’s mother Nolundi went to hang dish towels on the washing line outside and was also electrocuted and taken to hospital.
“The municipality people have known about this a long time ago, they came once and disconnected the illegal connection but never came back till this incident. We haven't heard anything from them since Saturday, that is what they always do,” Tukushe said.
Police spokesperson Christopher Spies said circumstances surrounding the child’s death are under investigation.
“The body of a four-year-old boy was found at Zone 9, Thembalethu on Saturday at about 4pm. The post-mortem report forms part of the ongoing police investigation. Investigation into this matter continues,” said Spies.
George Mayor Leon van Wyk said the Municipal Electro-Technical Services Department indicated that they were informed about the two incidents in the aftermath on Sunday morning.
“The Municipal electro-technical department confirms that the energised fence from which the child got electrocuted was an illegal connection and which was safely removed,” he said.
The Electro-Technical Department conducts regular safety operations targeted at removing illegal connections, Van Wyk said, with the latest operation in this area done last Thursday.
Van Wyk issued a stern warning to residents to refrain from the installation of illegal connections.
“We cannot overemphasize the dangers attached to illegal connections. Any kind of electricity ‘tapping’, no matter how small or innocent-looking, is illegal and dangerous and can cause much more trouble than you know,” van Wyk said.
Ward councillor Erick Mdaka said they would put pressure on the municipality to stop illegal connections.
“I went to the family on Sunday morning to hear what exactly happened and on my arrival, I heard the news that the grandmother of the child was also electrocuted by the same illegally connected wires. She was in extreme pain when I arrived but we called an ambulance and she was taken to hospital.
“We have an issue of newly-built informal settlements in the area. Their electricity goes to their houses through the family’s yard fence and that is very dangerous. Children play everywhere and as a parent, you don't worry about checking their whereabouts because you know they are safe in the yard.”