250614. An old power station building that collapsed in the early hours of this morning and trapped metal scavengers at Power Park in Soweto. 684 Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Johannesburg - He is desperate to fight his nyaope addiction.

Pule* makes money stealing metal and steel at the Orlando Power Station and selling it to feed his drug habit.

On Wednesday morning, when the building collapsed, killing three people and injuring five, he was still at home preparing himself for work.

“I call it work because this is where I make money. Unlike other nyaope addicts who steal from the community, I am making a living to provide for my cravings,” said the 24-year-old.

On Friday, emergency services had put the death toll at four. Later, officials changed the number to three, explaining that they had counted a bundle of clothes not far from other bodies.

Pule who lives in Orlando East, not far from the structure, claimed he takes home from R800 to R1 000 a day.

He has been stealing from the power station for the past two years.

Pule says his friends introduced him to the power station shortly after he dropped out from high school.

“I couldn’t concentrate at school, I was already addicted at the time.

“I need help. I want to quit my addiction and be a better father to my daughter, who I haven’t seen in ages. I do make money from collecting metal and selling it to scrapyards, but it goes nowhere. I spend R50 on at least five sacks of nyaope a day. The rest I use it for food and cigarettes,” he added.

Police spokesman Kay Makhubela said they would probe Pule’s claims that police wanted bribes from thieves to allow them back in the station.

On Thursday, Pule was arrested while he and his friends were stealing scrap metal on the other side on the rubble. But he was released because there was no complaint in the matter.

On Monday, Pule was among dozens of scavengers who continue to steal scrap metal.

The place is still cordoned off, with security guards hovering around the wreck to try to prevent thieves from gaining access to the building.

A guard, who asked not to be named, told The Star he feared for his life in the area.

“We are not safe with these people being around. We chase them away, but they continue coming in numbers and forcing their entry into the building.”

Joburg emergency services spokeswoman Nana Radebe said the search had been called off.

An assessment report by engineers was expected to be completed in the coming days to map out an action plan.

In the morning, families descended on site hoping the bodies of their loved ones would be rescued.

* Not his real name.


The Star