Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Durban - Two children have been electrocuted in Durban’s Cato Manor informal settlement.

This week, a 10-year-old boy died when he was playing with a balloon.

Another child died in November.

A resident, who asked not to be identified, living near the scene said the boy was chasing after his balloon barefoot when he ran into an area of open live wires.

The boy’s family would not comment, but Pretty Nyangani, a member of the Community Police Forum at Old Damba section, said it was not rare for them to bury loved ones who had been electrocuted.

Nyangani said residents used illegal connections because they did not have electricity in their homes. “People know the dangers of this electricity. We try to keep our children safe and inform them of how dangerous these wires are. It was a sad thing to hear about this young boy,” she said.

Nyangani named the child who died in November as 11-year-old Sakhile Rampasi.

Malehlohonolo Rampasi shared the story of her son’s death. “Sakhile was a happy child and loved dearly. On the day he died he asked for money from his uncle. He then went to the tuckshop to buy airtime and when he knocked on the door of the tuckshop, unaware that there was unwrapped live wire just under the steel door, which he stepped on and then touched the door. He was electrocuted and died 15 minutes later.”

Residents say there have been more incidents like this in the area. Another resident admitted she and her family used illegal electricity.

“Despite the fact that we reside in shacks, we need electricity to survive. We cannot allow our children to do their school homework in the dark or using candle light. We know what we are doing is risky but we have been waiting for better service delivery for too long,” she said.

The resident said their main electricity supply was an electric pole near their street.

“We buy wires and hire people to connect them to these poles. Sometimes it ‘bursts’ and we would call the municipality to come and fix it. The power erupts regularly due to the overload of people who are using each pole. We do not pay for this electricity.”

eThekwini Municipality’s spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said illegal connections were a major concern to the city.

“This is despite tremendous strides that we have made to formally electrify the informal settlements. In the event that illegal connections are brought to our attention, we always move with speed to disconnect them,” said Mayisela.

“We appeal to people to refrain from stealing electricity. We also urge them to partner with us in nipping this scourge in the bud. We would like to bring to the attention of the public that illegal connections are as a result of some members of the community that are well known. It should be noted that the city will not win this war alone as long as the same people collude with criminals and thieves to steal electricity.

“We send our heartfelt condolences to the family of the child that has been electrocuted. It is high time that our communities do an objective introspection of themselves as some are party to this crime.”

This week, the eThekwini draft budget proposed a 13.07% increase in electricity tariffs. Water will go up 15%. IFP caucus leader Mdu Nkosi said illegal connections were a result of the high costs and “people steal electricity because they cannot afford it”.

DA caucus leader Nicole Graham said the city was “losing huge electricity revenue, projected to be R237 million in the next financial year. We believe much of this is due to theft and poor management of the infrastructure.”

Independent on Saturday