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’My mom died after municipal workers cut our power, shutting off her oxygen supply’

By Taschica Pillay Time of article published Mar 28, 2021

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Durban - A Newlands West mother died after municipal workers allegedly disconnected her electricity which resulted in the machine which supplied her oxygen shutting down.

Cecilia Rosemary Frank, 64, died a few minutes after electricity at her home in Briardale was cut on Thursday.

Frank, a former teacher, had been for more than two years suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs.

She had been dependant on oxygen from a portable machine.

Her daughter, L’oreal Frank, 23, claimed that municipal officials allegedly disconnected their electricity because they were in arrears in their payment.

“I did explain that my mom was on an oxygen machine. I asked him to please wait a few minutes until I started the generator. He said he was just doing his job and that he did not have time as he was busy.

“In the meantime, my boyfriend who was also outside pleaded with the guy as my mother was on the oxygen machine which she needs to keep her alive. I was on a call with family trying to get some money to pay so they don’t cut it. While this was happening one of the guys disconnected the electricity,” said Frank.

She said by the time she turned on the generator and went to see her mother she had already passed on.

“I made a small payment of R2 400 towards the account about two weeks ago and did not expect them to just come and disconnect without any notice.

“I know they had to cut the lights, but all I asked for was a few minutes to make my mom comfortable. I can breathe on my own, but my priority was my mother. Now an innocent life is lost. We bought the generator because of load shedding just for her machine,” she said.

L’oreal said they were in arrears like many people who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic.

“It wasn’t as though I was not making any payment. I paid what I could,” said L’oreal, who left work to take care of her parents.

Her father died last year.

Their neighbour, Vinesh Reddy, said he usually helped L’oreal start up the generator when they knew load shedding was going to start.

“On Thursday I had seen municipal officials next door but did not know why.

“A neighbour from across came running and said Rose was not breathing. When I went to the house to check, Rose had already passed away. She was completely dependent on the machine,” said Reddy.

Reddy’s wife, Lauren Chetty, said it was very upsetting how her neighbour died.

“She didn’t deserve to die like that. She was such a sweet, humble, soft-spoken, kind-hearted person,” said Chetty.

Msawakhe Mayisela, spokesperson for the eThekwini Municipality, said mayor Mxolisi Kaunda had ordered an urgent investigation to ascertain the veracity of these allegations.

“The city would like to send its heartfelt condolences to the family following this unfortunate incident. This isolated incident must not be misconstrued to mean that our city is not caring.

“We are a caring city and the welfare of our residents will always be a priority.

“Bearing testimony to this is that currently we have debt relief programmes where we are inviting our residents who are battling to pay their debts to make arrangements with us to gradually settle their debts with instalments that are affordable to them.

“We are, therefore, appealing to be given space to get to the bottom of this matter, we will then communicate our next course of action,” said Mayisela.

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Sunday Tribune

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