The residents set alight a council truck which then veered off the road into an informal settlement and burnt a few shacks. Picture: Cindy Waxa

Cape Town - About 18 Site C residents in Khayelitsha have been displaced after Wednesday’s protests, sparked after illegal electricity connections to the rail network were cut.

The residents set alight a council truck which then veered off the road into an informal settlement and burnt a few shacks.

The city’s Fire and Rescue spokesman, Theo Layne, said:

“Four structures were burnt, and approximately 18 people have been displaced, and the cause of the fire is the protesters.”

Police spokesman Captain FC van Wyk said the protest started when Metrorail cut the illegal electrical connections that hung over the railway lines.

“Bricks were packed on the railway line and tyres were burned in the streets by the protesters.

“Thereafter they marched to the fire station and stoned the vehicles driving past.”

Van Wyk said the protesters went back to the main road and set alight a municipal truck – pushed the burning truck near shacks and, as a result, five shacks were razed.

Residents later marched to a councillor’s house, and stoned it.

“No arrests were made. Public order police services and other law enforcement agencies are on the scene to monitor the situation. “A public violence case was opened for investigation.

“Police are busy arranging a meeting with the community to resolve the problem,” Van Wyk said.

On Tuesday, Metrorail said it was forced to temporarily terminate trains to Khayelitsha at Mandalay train station, leaving commuters bound for Nolungile, Nonkqubela, Khayelitsha, Kuyasa and Chris Hani to find alternative transport.

“The forced termination comes in the wake of a multi-functional, joint operation to remove illegal electrical connections between Nolungile and Nonkqubela.

“Some households in the formalised X section are illegally supplying their opposite neighbours in the informal settlement in RR section with electricity,” Metrorail said.

Metrorail regional manager Richard Walker explained: “The wiring used to supply the electricity is not fit-for-purpose and dangerous; its electrical current carrying capability is inadequate with the result that the wires burn out easily.

“These illegal connections are supplied both across and underneath our rail infrastructure, causing havoc with our train service”.

Walker said 396 trains were delayed in October due to illegal connections; totalling 5 264 minutes of delays: “The connections are responsible for our electricity shorting out and creating false positive readings.

“The former causes extensive delays; the latter affects train signals creating dangerous operating conditions.”

Ward councillor Luvuyo Hebe said he felt sorry for the families that had lost their belongings.

“I feel sorry for the families whose houses caught fire because they’ve lost everything.

“But I blame the city council because they are the ones who promised the community electricity.”

Mayoral committee member for human settlements Benedicta van Minnen said: “RR Section is partly on a road reserve which is not owned by the city council and under high-voltage Eskom power lines, which makes the electrification of this settlement challenging and in some parts, impossible.

“Parts of RR Section are extremely flood-prone and cannot be formally electrified.”

She condemned in the “strongest possible terms” damaging infrastructure.

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Cape Argus