Illegal electricity connections are causing blackouts in Imizamo Yethu, but those who risk death, tampering with the township’s power supply, say they have no choice.
The area was left without water and power last week when the City found illegal connections to the mains and local substations.
Ward councillor Roberto Quintas condemned the tampering saying it destabilised the power supply and caused “untold suffering and food wastage to families who least can afford to throw away spoilt goods”.
A web of hazardous wiring – connecting people illegally to the electricity supply – hangs over Imizamo Yethu’s streets and homes. Sentinel News, on a visit to the area last week, saw a man connecting his shack.
Many homes in the township have prepaid meters, but this is often not the case in built-on shacks.
The illegal connections destabilised the power grid, causing blackouts and damaging the City’s mains, Mr Quintas said.
“The City has to build these types of infrastructure in order to supply the area with the required electricity. However, people become impatient and eventually end up illegally connecting to the electricity supply in the area.”
However, residents like Siyamthanda Lomile say the connections are about survival.
He admitted to connecting his home to the mains illegally but said he had done it for the sake of his family.
“When I first moved in here, we had nothing, and I had no work with two children and a wife. I still do odd jobs here and there, but it’s not enough for us to go through. I did not want my family to sit in the dark.”
Mr Lomile said he knew all too well the risks involved.
“I am only trying to look after my family. I know what I am doing is wrong, but I can also go out and start stealing because I am desperate, and that is also wrong. But I rather stay here and do what I can for them.”
Mr Quintas said the City would take action against the illegal connections after the lockdown.
“These illegal connections are primarily dangerous in terms of electrocution and as causes or conduits of fire, and, furthermore, cause regular and ongoing power outages which result in frustration for residents.”
Mr Quintas said the City aimed to supply electricity to most homes in the township within the next two years.
“Naturally, we find it difficult to manage the demand as the demand keeps growing every time a new structure goes up in IY,” he said.
The man the Sentinel News saw connecting his home didn’t want to give his name but said he cared for his mother and two sisters while working seven days a week, and now he faced losing his job because of the lockdown.
“People only see us doing this illegal thing, but people don’t understand why we are doing it. I cannot have my sisters and my mother sitting in the dark and I will do all that I can to help them.”
Without so much as a pair of rubber gloves or a simple tool, he climbed the electrical pole and threw his wires across a blanket of live wiring, hoping to lead the connection to his home.
“We don’t want to do this or live like this, but who is going to help us?” he said. “Who is going to help our family when we need it?”