Illegal electricity connections at Cato Crest informal settlement.
Durban - Eight-year-old Nkosisphile Hlengwa, of Cato Crest informal settlement, was left with a permanent scar on his head after surviving an electric shock caused by an illegal connection in December 2016.

Nkosisphile is apparently one of many children in the informal settlement who have fallen victim to illegal electricity connections by residents.

This issue is not restricted to the Cato Crest informal settlement.

The Daily News reported last week that a six-year-old girl survived an electric shock at an informal settlement in Verulam.

She had slipped and fallen on a live, uninsulated electricity cable.

Prem Balram, Reaction Unit South Africa spokesperson, told the Daily News that a child was killed last year by an illegal electricity connection at the same informal settlement in Ramnanan Road, after a resident had built an electric fence to secure his home.

In January this year, Independent Media reported that a two-year-old child had been electrocuted at the Ocean Drive Inn settlement in oThongathi.

Netcare 911 spokesperson Shawn Herbst had said the child had apparently made contact with the exposed power supply and could not be resuscitated.

The Daily News visited Cato Crest this week to investigate.

Snethemba Hlengwa, Nkosisphile’s uncle, said he had found the child unconscious on the day of the incident.

“I found him lying in a passageway beside a shack. I took him in a taxi to the hospital,” Hlengwa said.

The likelihood of being electrocuted was common, he said.

“It is shocking. It is scary, even for an elderly person. We are even afraid of the electricity put in by the municipality,” he added.

Residents also spoke of the dangers posed by the illegal connections.

“It kills children,” said Zandi Mthembu.

She added that children appeared to be the most likely victims of the illegal connections.

Another woman, aged 54, who did not want to be named, said: “I lost count of the number of children who died.”

A 53-year-old man, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “I have never heard of any survivors. Only children have been electrocuted. Children touch live wires while playing.”

According to some residents, the risks posed by the illegal connections increased during rainstorms and also caused other crimes.

“When it rains and you walk underneath the wires, you can get electrocuted,” said Asanda Jwara of Umzimkhulu.

She and her friend, Nonhle Duma, of eMkhomazi, said “pickpocketing, robberies and rape” were likely to occur when there was no electricity.

Pointing to a tap at the entrance to the informal settlement, Jwara said: “A woman was raped there.”

Dikatso Mothae, a deputy spokesperson for Eskom, said the two main causes of the illegal connections in informal settlements were “because we cannot make any connections there or people not wanting to pay for services”.

Metro Police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Parboo Sewpersad said assistance was provided to electricians who followed up calls of illegal connections.

Department of Human Settlements spokesperson Mbulelo Baloyi said his department provided funding to municipalities to address affordable housing for informal settlement residents.

“The eThekwini Municipality has a programme that provides interim services, where they provide electricity, water and sanitation to informal settlements,” said Baloyi.

The eThekwini Municipality’s acting head of communications, Mandla Nsele, said that through the integrated national electrification programme and in collaboration with the Department of Energy, they provided electricity to about 300000 informal dwellings in eThekwini.

Independent Media previously reported that illegal connections cost the city millions every year.

“Too often, innocent people lose their lives due to illegal connections. The saddest and most concerning part for Eskom is that it is often children who are electrocuted,” said Eskom’s Mothae.

The municipality urged residents to report illegal connections by contacting the electricity department’s call centre at 0801313111, SMS 0837000819 or email: [email protected]

Residents can also call the SAPS at 10111.

Daily News