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Man dies from illegal electricity connection

File Picture: Van der Lith Photography

File Picture: Van der Lith Photography

Published Apr 23, 2020

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A MAN was electrocuted and killed after accidentally walking over a live electricity wire "hot spot" in Kuvukiland, a Sebokeng informal settlement in the Vaal area, last week.

This brings to five the number of people killed this year in Kuvukiland by the illegal connection of electricity at the same spot.

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The spot is where wires pulled from a local hostel are joined by those from the informal settlement.

Kuvukiland is one of the informal settlements that still have no water and electricity, and the residents complain about being neglected by the government when it comes to service delivery.

Residents here share a communal tap and a pit toilet.

In spite of the tragic deaths, community members including those who lost their loved ones are still adamant that they won’t stop illegal connections, even if it kills them, because having electricity is better and cheaper than using paraffin and candles.

Petros Velankulu, one of those who were killed by live wire at the same place, was buried only this week after his body sat at the mortuary for almost a month.

But his wife Khanyisile Mnisi said she had no choice but to continue with the illegal activity because electricity was cheaper than candles and paraffin.

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“It saddened me that the same electricity that we are using in trying to make life easier is killing our loved ones,” said the 42-year-old mother.

“I am not working and my late husband was also unemployed. This was a way of making things easier because paraffin and candles are expensive.”

Thandi Ndawo also lost her son after he was killed at the hot spot.

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Like others, her son Khanyisani Ndawo stepped on the wires and cables connected to the shacks.

“I am not connected to electricity but I think it makes life easy for others. But the same wires killed my son in 2016.

"He was going somewhere when he tried to walk through them, and unfortunately he didn’t survive,” she said.

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And Elisa Motholo, who also makes use of stolen electricity, fears for her life as her shack gets flooded with water when it rains. The illegal wires run on the floor of her shack.

“I have to remove all cables on the floor when it rains because I know this is dangerous. I heard people have been killed by electricity here. But how will I survive if I disconnect? Again, every time it rains I have to scoop water from my home,” lamented the 58-year-old woman.

Community leader William Mofokeng seemed to endorse illegal connections when he said although it was dangerous, people still had no choice because they were desperate.

“Although illegal electricity connection is dangerous, people rely on it because they are desperate. The only thing that can help end this is to give people houses with electricity and water,” said Mofokeng.

Last November, during a court case between residents of Soweto and Eskom over electricity disconnections, the power utility said illegal connections of electricity contributed to power outages in some areas.

Eskom had estimated revenue lost to electricity theft to be in the region of more than R1billion.

South African municipalities also owe Eskom R26bn, and municipalities such as Ngwathe Local Municipality in Free State, which owe more than R940million to Eskom, have also blamed illegal connections for failing to meet their debt.

Asked for comment, Ngwathe Local Municipality’s Steven Nale confirmed that his municipality used to lose money through illegal and ghost vandalism and was unable to recover money to Eskom on a monthly basis due to these illegal activities.

Emfuleni Local Municipality also owes R2.3bn to Eskom.

Spokesperson Stanley Gaba also blamed illegal connections for increased Eskom debt and advised that the illegal connections could be dealt with effectively if unlawful land occupation was eradicated.

“As a result of illegal connections we experience overload, which causes transformers to burn.

"The municipality has to replace them at a cost. This will also result in an increase in Eskom’s bill,” he said.

City of Polokwane spokesperson Tshidiso Mothapo said the municipality lost 3.3% of the electricity it bought from Eskom because of meter tampering and illegal connections.

The Sunday Independent

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