Fire victims left without electricity for months

Residents in Masiphumelele wetlands have been without power since November 2015

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Photo of an informal settlement
Section E in Masiphumelele. Photo: Masixole Feni

Many residents in the Masiphumelele wetlands area still have no electricity after the fire that destroyed more than 1,000 homes in November last year.

Mayoral Committee Member for Utility Services Alderman Ernest Sonnenberg said electrification of structures in a wetland was unsafe and against the Residential Electricity Reticulation Policy, even though most of the houses in the wetlands were electrified.

“Where it was safe to reinstate the supply to customers after the fire, the City’s Electricity Services Department restored their connections.”

“In some cases, after a large fire, residents who had previously stayed in other areas move into the fire-affected area. As these residents are not registered as existing electricity consumers, the City must treat these as new connections,” said Sonnenberg.

He said there may be a few structures that can still be electrified safely, but the exact number is yet to be confirmed. There are “no plans to further electrify beyond the development limits.”

But a community leader at the wetlands informal settlement, Brian Nompunga, says this is not the case. People who had electricity before the fire, living in the same place, are without electricity now. He says the City always “makes the excuse” that people not receiving electricity are living beyond the boundary it has set.

Nompunga says people are assigned a house number by the City, and once they get a number they are entitled to services. People without numbers are outside the service provision area. He says there are people with numbers, but they do not have electricity.

“Every time there is a fire, this is always the problem … In 2014 there was a fire; people in Section C still have not received electricity since then,” said Nompunga.

The wetland is divided into five sections, from A to E. Only section A was not hit by the fire. 

Nkosi Maswazi says in the section he lives in, section E, about 60 houses have no electricity. “We are struggling without electricity. There are women with small children; elderly sick people who are forced to sleep in the cold; this place is cold” said Maswazi.

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TOPICS:  City Electricity Housing

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