Just as locals living in the Hangberg Insitu Development Area (HIDA) were about to have their lives lit up, they were left in the dark once again, as yet another project was halted.
On Friday June 4, contractors were forced to vacate the area after being intimidated by locals who are not in line to receive the legal and compliant electricity meters.
According to the City of Cape Town, contractors were meant to provide electricity infills, but due to threats of violence and damages to property and persons, the work was brought to a halt.
Locals chose not to be named in fear of being victimised by the community, but many suggested that the issue delays the entire process.
One local said they had been waiting a while to receive the meters and remained patient, even though previous projects were also delayed.
“These people do not understand that if you are delaying this project, the next one and the next one will also be delayed. Some of them even get pleasure out of seeing maybe this one or that one without lights,” the resident said.
He suggested that the City consider rolling out the project on a much larger scale in order to cater for many more people at a time.
“If they can help more people, then maybe we won’t sit with these problems. But again, I will still say, the people must also understand how this process works, but they don’t and they just delay more and more,” he said.
Another local who will have to wait until the project goes live again called on more residents to help the process.
“The people must help with stuff like this, because now it’s going to cause more pressure on the City and the people living here. Now the people are fighting each other,” she said.
She suggested that these matters go through community structures, where an approach can be discussed.
“If it’s our own people who are involved, then maybe the people will not feel threatened at all and the work will get done. But if the project must stop every time, that means the next group will also have to wait,” she explained.
Two previous attempts in the past were also brought to a halt by residents living in the informal settlements on the outskirts of the area, who prevented the City’s contractors from installing the meters at several informal houses in HIDA, (“Protesters pull plug on electricity programme”, Sentinel News, December 13, 2019). The last effort by contractors to install the meters came in March last year, where contractors were also chased away, (“Electricity woes continue for HIDA”, Sentinel News, March 13, 2020).
Peace and Mediation Forum chairman, Jan Lewis, said he was aware of the project that was disrupted and said that locals behind it all were not properly informed about policies and procedures when it came to the City.
“These guys did not really understand the policies and procedures of the City, but the guys who did that (stopped the project) did apologise by me,” he said.
He further said the correct way forward would be for the City to “listen to what we as the PMF say”.
“We are here to assist when residents must get services and guide the City how to do the implementation. As we told them, there were two attempts to put in electricity and it failed. They must allow us to elect workers or from the electricity beneficiaries to work with the contractor, but they did not listen,” Mr Lewis said.
Community activist Roscoe Jacobs alleged that the entire process was being dealt with unfairly.
“This is as a result of the City’s failure and abdicating their constitutional mandate to a community-based organisation. People feel the provision of electricity is not being provided in a fair manner and they also fail to properly communicate with the community,” Mr Jacobs said.
The City explained that those who did not qualify were either those who have built on land that the City is not legally permitted to electrify, or have built with brick and as such require approved building plans as per the National Building Regulations, or are not in line of the grid capacity currently.
Ward councillor Roberto said it was with “great frustration and disappointment” that the project had to once again be halted.
“Once again, the commitment to provide this essential service to those beneficiaries who qualify for the current roll-out is unable to be kept, through no fault nor lack of effort by the relevant department. It is equally frustrating and saddening, and ultimately the biggest losers in this are those who are waiting in desperation for this service,” he disappointingly said.
“The City and its administration can no longer take any blame for non-delivery, when it is the very communities we attempt to serve who make service delivery impossible.”
He called on the community of Hangberg to “stand together for a good cause” and said: “Create an environment where the City can do the work it is mandated and willing to do.”
“The City cannot provide services by staring ’down the barrel of a gun’ and it is incumbent on the community to stand up for itself and their access to services. The City is willing to provide these services, and the community needs to stand by the City while they do the work required,” Mr Quintas said.