City of Tshwane out to disconnect illegal power

A vast majority of shacks in Itireleng informal settlement near Laudium, west of Pretoria, have been illegally connected to the electricity network. Itireleng is known for its violent service delivery protests.
A vast majority of shacks in Itireleng informal settlement near Laudium, west of Pretoria, have been illegally connected to the electricity network. Itireleng is known for its violent service delivery protests.
Image: ISAAC MAHLANGU

The City of Tshwane has a daunting task of disconnecting thousands of illegal connections in Itireleng - one of its biggest and violent informal settlements.

This comes after a transformer burnt down due to an overloaded electricity network, leaving thousands of residents in the sprawling informal settlement, west of Pretoria, in the dark since Friday night.

Seven other transformers were damaged in the process.

A vast majority of shacks in the area, which is known for its violent service delivery protests, have illegally been connected to the electricity network.

MMC for utility services Abel Tau said the city would soon be disconnecting all illegal connections in the informal settlement near Laudium.

Tau said the city now had to replace all blown-up electricity components, including eight transformers.

"The damage to the electricity network is serious and extensive. This situation is totally unacceptable. I will engage the MMC for community safety department to ensure that the disconnection happens soon," Tau said.

He said it was "about time that those responsible for tapping into the network are arrested and prosecuted".

Tau said replacing the transformers alone would cost the city R200,000 for all eight transformers, while there were other additional costs, including installation, expected.

When Sowetan visited the informal settlement yesterday, we spoke to about a dozen residents but only one claimed to have not connected himself to the electricity network illegally.

One resident warned that "hell would break loose" should the municipality attempt to disconnect them.

Another resident said residents were forced to connect illegally because their neighbours were not paying for electricity. "How would you feel if you pay for electricity but everyone in your street is not? You will also connect illegally like everyone else," the resident said.

He said due to the fact that they have voted in the past elections, they deserved free electricity.

"Everyone here is not paying for electricity, and even if they [city] disconnect us we will reconnect again."

Tau said: "The problem is much bigger than people not paying for electricity, kids get electrocuted in Itireleng due to these illegal connections."

He said the city was also planning to roll out pre-paid meters at Itireleng.

Itireleng is an overcrowded informal settlement which was a hive of activity yesterday.

Sewerage permanently flows on streets, while residents go about their daily activities as if everything was fine.

Another angry resident told Sowetan the sewerage that passes through her yard had been like that for more than two years.

"We are so used to it... it no longer bothers us," said the resident.

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