Surge in wrecking of IY power grid

Illegal electricity connections are rife in Imizamo Yethu.

Vandalism of substations and other electricity infrastructure, including damage done by illegal connections, has risen sharply in Imizamo Yethu, says mayoral committee member for energy Beverley van Reenen.

It’s part of a citywide problem, and it costs almost R27 million a year to fix damage to municipal electricity infrastructure across the metro, she says.

“There has been a spike in vandalism of the City of Cape Town’s electricity infrastructure in recent months,” she said, adding that law-abiding customers were suffering power failures as a result.

“These illegal actions directly impact service delivery to residents, and help is needed from residents across Cape Town to stop the scourge. We condemn this criminality and call on residents to assist with ending this scourge.”

Imizamo Yethu community leader Kenny Tokwe said residents knew what was happening, but no one was prepared to lodge a formal complaint about the illegal connections.

A resident, Edward Mkhule, said: “Although it is illegal, they know it is helping a family or keeping a light on for a child that is studying. We know it’s not okay, but you can see why.”

But he added that the illegal connections could have devastating consequences.

“There are very bad things that can happen from those illegal connections because they end up damaging the substations by adding more connections. As much as it helps somebody, it can also take a life.”

Last week, ward councillor Roberto Quintas met with City officials and Imizamo Yethu community leaders to discuss moving two shacks that have illegally encroached on a substation.

“We can upgrade the substation, providing more households with electricity and then cage in the substation,“ Mr Quintas said.

Meanwhile, according to the municipal draft budget, the City plans to spend nearly R40 million to secure electricity infrastructure across the metro.

“We have budgeted for a significant boost in our efforts to curb the scourge of vandalism of our energy infrastructure. In addition, we are looking into innovative technology to trace stolen goods/cables, among others,” Ms Van Reenen said.

The City is offering rewards of R5000 for any information leading to an arrest or the confiscation of stolen goods.

Ms Van Reenen appealed to the public to report any suspicious activity near electricity infrastructure to both SAPS and the City.

“The City does deploy security and monitor hot-spot areas where possible, but we rely on our communities to alert us and to help us protect community infrastructure,” she said.

• SMS 31220 or email power@capetown.gov.za to report damage to municipal electrical infrastructure. Reports can also be made, anonymously if necessary, by calling 112 from a cellphone (toll-free) and 107 from a landline or 021 480 7700 for emergencies.

Ward councillor Roberto Quintas inspects a site in Imizamo Yethu where a substation needs to be upgraded.