Follow-up on Khayelitsha streetlights

| Thandile Majivolo
Photo by Nwabisa Pondoyi.

In February, GroundUp published a report on the issue of street lights in Khayelitsha, in particular on Lansdowne Road and Mew Way. Activist organizations — the Social Justice Coalition (SJC), Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and Equal Education (EE) — held a march on 4 February in Khayelitsha.

See City turns Khayelitsha street lights on.

City of Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille, who attended the march, received a memorandum that the City should ensure that street lights were functioning in Khayelitsha. It also demanded that the City implement the installation of street lights where they were not available and fix damaged and vandalized lights within Lansdowne Road and Khayelitsha.

GroundUp ran a follow-up story in April, and it seems there has been some improvement.

Councillor Danile Khatshwa of Ward 96 (Makhaza in Khayelitsha) said street lights in his ward from Lindela Road to Baden Powell Drive have been fixed and are working.

“Since I submitted complaints from residents within my ward, the street lights have been fixed and are functioning. You would only find that about one or two street lights are not working, but I can say that there’s been an improvement,” he said.

Zodwa Sinkempele (20), a Community Librarian at Equal Education said that she has some mixed feelings when it comes to the issue of street lights. “Since the march, I have seen some improvement in the functioning of the [street] lights. But I don’t know whether the City only fixed the lights because we were pressuring them, or they only fixed the lights to get us out of their way then discontinued with the work they were supposed to do.”

Khatshwa admitted there are however some parts of Khayelitsha that still remain in the dark.

“Despite the improvements on street lights in Makhaza, major sections in Khayelitsha still remain without functioning street lights, particularly along Lansdowne Road .. Even some of the newly implemented streetlights are not of the best quality.”

Councillor Danile felt that the newly installed lights were not as bright as the previously installed lights, and felt that much brighter streetlights should have been installed. GroundUp went out at night to see whether this statement was true. The streetlights at Makhaza are very bright, and about 15 floodlights are providing light for the Site B, Town Two and Makhaza areas.

This week GroundUp went out to count the total number of streetlights working along Lansdowne Road from Baden Powell Drive to Mew Way. Of the 244 lights along this stretch, 217 (88%) were working and 27 (12%) were broken.

Of the 27 lights that are not working, 12 (44%) lights were not functioning from the stretch starting at the intersection between Spine Road and Mew Way, all in one row. Such a problem indicates that the affected area is prone to cable theft, vandalism or faulty connections.The surrounding area, Ilitha Park, remains very dark within this vicinity. 3 (11%) were out in Jafta Masemola Road, while 3 (11%) were not working on Steve Biko Road. 4 (15%) were out on Lansdowne Road between Mew Way and Baden Powell Roads, and 5 (19%) were not working at Pama Road.

Councillor Danile says that it is the responsibility of the Cape Town Municipality to ensure that broken streetlights are fixed. “There is no specific period to fix faulty lights. My duty is to report the matter to the Municipality. They [the Municipality] have the responsibility of funding the fixing and maintenance of streetlights, and to ensure that they are fully functional,” he said.

Khonzani Lembeni, who lives in Makhaza within the vicinity of the affected Lansdowne Road, says that he has seen a huge difference since the implementation of the street lights. “The situation has improved immensely. When there were no functioning street lights, we would never see criminals when they were approaching and we would often become their victims,’ he said.

The absence of functioning street lights abetted criminals in Khayelitsha, particularly in Makhaza. “I have also been a victim of these criminals who attacked when it was dark. I was coming from work one night and because it was dark [since there were no lights], I could not see them (the criminals). I was robbed of two cell phones. But now that the street lights are functioning, I feel much safer,” said Lembeni.

Councillor Ernst Sonnenberg, Mayoral Committee Member for Utility Services, said that in September last year (2012) the City had embarked on a lighting project that resulted in the burning rate in areas of Khayelitsha, particularly along Lansdowne Road, Baden Powell Drive and Mew Way improving from 30% to 90%.

“By the end of April 2013, all lighting networks in Khayelitsha had been restored, and by the end of May, all lighting was restored in Lansdowne Road from Eisleben Road to Baden Powell Drive. Since then the contractor has maintained a constant presence in the area. However, despite the City’s concerted efforts, vandalism, theft and illegal connections to the network have again become a problem.”

Sonnenberg says that the City is aware of the outage in Lansdowne Road near the Mew Way vicinity, which he said is a result of illegal connections to the network. It is a “sensitive and time-consuming consultative process,” he said.

The project is set to be completed by the end of February 2014.

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