Residents powerless as sub-station demolished

Zukile Mafilika says his girlfriend keeps this large plank alongside her when she is at home in the dark. She was attacked by a group of young men two weeks ago.

A group of 20 residents renting council-owned houses at Forest Station near Disa Primary School have claimed “unfairness” on the part of the City after a nearby electricity box was demolished, leaving them without power.

The group living in the three houses are facing eviction. The matter is being heard by the courts.

However, on Monday April 10, the residents were shocked to discover that an electricity sub-station which provided them power had been demolished. Their water has also been shut off.

Resident Zukile Mafilika, who stays in one of the homes with three women, pointed out the area where the box had been demolished. Poles demarcate where a road is being built, but this area falls well away from the building site.

“When I asked the site manager why the box had been smashed down, he said he didn’t know that it was in use. However, I have gone to the electricity department in Wynberg to check that our pre-paid electricity meter payments are up to date, and they have confirmed that they are. So how can it be that the construction workers didn’t know this box was in use?” he said.

“My biggest fear is that there are lots of women staying in these houses, and they come home late at night from work. Without light, it is dangerous for them to walk into their homes.”

Mr Mafilika explained his girlfriend had been attacked by a group of muggers as she entered the home two weeks ago. “I work until 9pm, so she comes home alone. If she was attacked when the power was on, you can only imagine what will happen now we don’t have electricity?”

He also questioned why another council house, now lying in ruin and unoccupied, had not been demolished, when the construction workers had seen fit to remove the electricity station. “They have also taken down a fence running alongside our houses, which makes it easy for muggers to hide in the bush when it’s dark.”

A shocked Zawo Senene said she had been at work when she received a call from one of her fellow residents to say there was no more power.

“There are a lot of us living here, including a very sick old person. She needs to have the refrigerator on because that’s where her medication is stored. Without power that is not possible,” she said.

The pensioner, Nambuyiselo Mqoqi, 61, suffers from severe chest pains, and could barely breathe when interviewed by the Sentinel.

“I moved here two years ago, thinking it would be better in a brick house. But now that they’ve shut off the electricity, it’s a big problem for me,” she said.

The group was first made aware of their potential eviction last year, and had subsequently enlisted the services of a lawyer to argue their case.

Each resident had been paying monthly rental of R650, although they had ceased paying this amount while the matter went to court.

“We have no problem moving. All we ask is that the City find alternate accommodation for us. But cutting off the water and power like this is not fair to us,” Ms Senene said.

In response, Suzette Little, mayoral committee member for Area North, said the City’s Property Management Department confirmed that the property in question has been illegally occupied. “The land in question has been applied for by the Western Cape government to be used for educational purposes (proposed extensions to the existing Disa School). The matter was postponed to 18 May for legal representation,” she said.