16 September 2011

South Africa: Protest Sparked By Attempt to Cut Illegal Electricity Connections

AN attempt by Eskom to disconnect illegal electricity connections in Khayelitsha's Island Informal Settlement sparked violent protests yesterday.

A car was set alight by a petrol bomb and a shipping container was pushed into the busy Lansdowne Road throughfare as about 200 residents scattered rubbish, burnt tyres and stoned passing cars.

The protests, which started mid-morning and only began to simmer down in the late afternoon came after letters from Eskom were delivered to shacks in the settlement yesterday, ordering residents to disconnect their illegal electricity lines or face a fine of R5 000.

A web of wires illegally connecting the shacks to nearby RDP houses hangs over the informal settlement. Wires also run across the across the roads and are buried in shallow trenches in the sand.

But residents say they are not prepared to live without electricity and the City and Eskom need to provide proper connections in their area.

"We connected our lines in Site C's D-section and some in TR section because Eskom doesn't want to give us (electricity) boxes," said resident Nomathamsanqa Kape, 36.

"Since 1989 we have been using illegal connections, every time when we ask Eskom for electricity they give us false promises. I've been living in this place since 1989, we never got any service delivery. We were only trying to help ourselves because Eskom doesn't care," said Kape.

She said Eskom handed out letters on Wednesday giving residents 24 hours notice to disconnect illegal wiring.

She said residents were prepared to pay for legally supplied electricity as they already paid R200 per month on average to people whose houses they connected to.

"We want power not police," said resident Athandwe Ndlela, 45.

"We won't rest until Eskom gives us answers. I have been living in this place for 15 years using illegal connections."

He said he agreed with Eskom that illegal connections were dangerous, but they had no choice.

"People are dying because of it. Even my brother died last year because of illegal connections. The City of Cape Town and Eskom must provide us with electricity and we won't stop until that happens."

Provincial police spokesperson November Filander said two people had been arrested in connection with the protests and charged with public violence.

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