300 shacks razed by illegal electricity

DEADLY illegal electricity connections continue unabated in the Kennedy Road Informal Settlement near Durban despite being the suspected cause of a fire that razed 300 shacks on Sunday.

Three people were killed in the blaze that also displaced more than 1000 people. By yesterday morning, residents who spent the night in the open began rebuilding their shacks.

Resident Sipho Mkhize told Sowetan that he had no choice but "to do an illegal connection".

"We do not get electricity, so we have to do it ourselves. We know it is dangerous but we know how to do it safely. I used to work for the electricity department so I know how to make it safe.

"Me and a lot of other people pay our neighbour, who has a legal connection, for our electricity," he said.

"Once my shack is up again I'm going to connect my electricity illegally again."

The shack-dwellers movement Abahlali Basemjondolo is furious.

"If people were given land, houses and electricity, there would be no fires and no deaths," said spokes-person Mnikelo Ndabankulu.

"The only reason there are fires is because of the failure of the municipality to provide services."

But KwaZulu-Natal local government MEC Nomusa Dube, who visited the shack settlement yesterday, said the residents refused formal houses offered to them in Riverdene, Newlands East and Mount Moriah.

"We asked them to move and many refused," Dube said.

"We sympathise with them but they don't want to move because the (present) settlement is next to the dump site which is a source of income for them."