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Tension between haves and have-nots over electricity

16 August 2017 - 18:20 By Peter Luhanga‚ Groundup

Zamikile Majibhane‚ 41‚ says he has been waiting since 1998 for Eskom to provide electricity to the informal settlement where he lives‚ Zone 8 in Witsand‚ not far from Atlantis.

“Shack fires are frequent and‚ because of lack of roads‚ firefighters and other emergency vehicles are unable to access us. But the burning issue is electricity. We have been negotiating with Eskom for ages and they have been promising to give us electricity but they don’t fulfil their promises‚” said Majibhane‚ who shares a two bedroom shack with his wife and six children.

Some residents connect wires to electricity poles supplying power to RDP houses in the area. These illegal connections result in power outages to the formal houses. But the residents say they do it as a last resort‚ so to be able to do things like ironing and cooking.

Witsand community activist Rachel Masega said there is ongoing tension between residents living in RDP houses and those living in shacks. The former accuse the latter of stealing electricity and causing outages in their homes. But the informal settlement residents blame Eskom for the tensions.

“We have a problem. The people in RDP houses cut our electricity wires … They say we are stealing electricity while they pay for it. But we have no choice: when they cut our wires we reconnect them. The more [Eskom] delays‚ the more it is going to create chaos with our neighbours‚” said Majibhane.

Witsand is situated in an Eskom electricity supply area.

Eskom’s provincial spokesperson‚ Jolene Henn‚ said Eskom was concerned about the illegal connections in Witsand.

She said a meeting had been held with community leaders on 2 August to discuss this.

“We’ve explained the detailed process to the community and we are currently busy with the electrification of identified pockets within Witsand. … Zone 8 is referred to as Witsands informal phase 2 in Eskom’s electrification plans in the 2018/19 electrification design to be executed in 2019/20.”

Mayco member for area north‚ Suzette Little‚ said the City of Cape Town had given Eskom the go-ahead to provide electricity to the informal settlement because of fire hazards and the conflict with formal residents‚ as well as the damage to Eskom’s infrastructure from illegal connections.

Little said the City had plans for the land on which the residents are living but could not proceed to implement them without finding alternative land to relocate the informal settlers. The City intends to develop a sports field‚ library‚ community centre‚ clinic‚ and business sites on the land occupied by the informal houses. Little said the City was looking for land to which the occupiers can be relocated.

* This article was originally published by GroundUp.