Families of disabled children live without electricity after waiting for adequate housing
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Cape Town - “I’d rather move back to my Wendy house where there is electricity than have a dead child.”
These were the words of Shirley de Bruin, 48, whose five-year-old son, Joshua, was born with a congenital heart disease which has seen him undergo two open-heart surgeries, and he is scheduled to have a third in February.
De Bruin is one of many residents in Eindhoven in Delft who waited between 15 and 30 years for adequate housing from the City and are now inside a home but have had no electricity for months.
In October, Weekend Argus reported on how several residents said they had waited for housing, making applications during the 1990s.
Weeks after the story was published, the City provided housing for many residents who were either disabled or had disabled children.
The Weekend Argus was contacted by residents who said they had moved into their homes last month but were left with another challenge, looking after their disabled children without electricity.
The children have medical conditions like cerebral palsy, Downs Syndrome, are deaf or wheelchair-bound.
De Bruin lives next door to Karin Hoffman, 47, whose four-year-old son, Duren, was born with cerebral palsy.
For both mothers, the challenges are taxing, seeking medical attention in the dark.
De Bruin’s husband Francois is also unable to work after undergoing back surgery three years ago.
“We are not ungrateful for these homes,” she said. “We have to use this gas tank which we are still privileged to have as many cannot afford this here. When my child is sick in the night as he has problems with his lungs, I have to rush him to a relative who has electricity, for me to use the nebuliser, and they live inside a Wendy house. My son was supposed to have his third operation in December, but I asked that it be postponed to February as we both had to be present to sign off the keys to the house.
“My child needs grommets, and I had to use a candle to apply medication into his ear. I’d rather move to a hokkie where there is electricity than have a dead child.”
Hoffman also has the same struggles.
“When we need to charge our phones, we need to pay people R10 or R200 for electricity a month and sometimes people do not want to open their doors,” she said.
“We cannot buy fresh food or meat, and we need to rely on our neighbours for hot water just to wash our children.”
Karolus de Boer’s 28-year-old daughter has Down Syndrome, and she needs 24-hour care, while Annie Charles’ 20-year-old granddaughter, Andrea Swart, also has cerebral palsy.
“My granddaughter gets fits and there are times we need to get her to hospital and we need to get electricity from neighbours,” said Charles.
De Boer said his daughter was completely dependent on him and his eldest daughter. “She cannot go to the toilet on her own or eat on her own.”
De Bruin said the area was equipped with poles which could assist in installation of electricity.
“We were told we will have to wait until April for electricity, but here is the poles needed for the installation,” she added.
Mayco member for Human Settlements, Malusi Booi, said they had indicated to residents that all electrical fixtures such as plugs were provided and that Eskom had to do the necessary installation.
He added residents were aware of the houses not being electrified and that they had to make provisions to avoid vandalism. “Due to the risk of vandalism and invasion of completed Breaking New Ground (BNG) houses, the City affords beneficiaries of its housing projects the choice to move into their homes before the electrical connections have been installed.
“Furthermore, beneficiaries were advised to take all necessary precautions when using alternative methods for cooking and keeping warm.
“The beneficiaries of the BNG homes have signed the letter of acceptance, indicating that they were aware that their electricity connections were yet to be installed by Eskom as this is an Eskom supply area and that they were advised to take all necessary precautions when using alternative methods for cooking and keeping warm.
“The City has installed all internal electricity connections, including plug points and light switches, inside of the units. However, Eskom provides the electricity supply to the units.
“The beneficiaries have been informed that their electricity supply will be provided by Eskom as soon as possible.”
Eskom said in a statement that residents would received electricity between February and April due to a delay by Western Cape Government.
“New homeowners in Leiden, Delft are waiting for their electricity to be switched on since moving into their new homes in August 2021.
“The electrification project will see approximately 221 dwellings receiving electricity in a phased approach. The electrification of about 100 houses will commence towards the end of February 2022 with the remaining dwellings to receive electricity between 1 April 2022 and 31 March 2023.
“The project experienced a delay, as Eskom awaited the approval from the Western Cape government for possible dates for commencement.
“Eskom apologises for any inconvenience due to the delay of the project and look forward to including the new customers to its customer base.”