THE debate in the pages of the Cape Times and on the GroundUp website over the provision of street lighting in Khayelitsha and other townships is to be welcomed.

It began last week Friday when Doron Isaacs of the NGO, Equal Education – which is headquartered in Khayelitsha – published details of his Twitter correspondence with Premier Helen Zille, and with Mayor Patricia de Lille’s office, over the absence of reliable street lights on Lansdowne Road. The correspondence dated back to July 21 last year, with Premier Zille promising a rapid response.

She later responded that officials were battling with vandalism and cable theft. Isaacs wrote that six months later, there were still no street lights in significant sections of Khayelitsha.

Yesterday, Gavin Silber of the Social Justice Coalition, which is also mainly based in Khayelitsha, weighed in, saying that the lack of adequate street lighting was a major factor in the area’s high crime rate and high pedestrian death rate.

“The mere fact that Lansdowne Road has been in darkness for more than six months proves that, at best, the city is failing to monitor and repair basic services, and at worst, that they are aware of the problem but have chosen not to fix it,” he wrote.

The city, in the person of councillor Shehaan Sims, mayoral committee member for utility services, and Paul Boughey, Chief of Staff in De Lille’s office, who writes in our pages today, has pointed out among other things that vandalism, cable theft and illegal electricity connections hamper the provision of lighting. The city has spent R500 000 to repair vandalised lights in Khayelitsha.

No doubt vandalism, theft and illegal connections do complicate the issue. But that is a problem that the residents of Khayelitsha cannot be expected to solve. The majority of people do not vandalise street lights or steal cable and should not be punished because a minority do.

Lights in Lansdowne Road and elsewhere in Khayelitsha are an urgent priority.