Formal homeowners fight informal settlement neighbours over electricity

“We know we break the law by making illegal connections but we have no choice”

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Photo of a street
On Mzumbe Street, Mfuleni, tensions have risen over illegal electrical connections between RDP house owners in Phase Two and residents of Nyakathisa informal settlement. Photo: Vincent Lali

Fights have broken out over electricity supply in Mfuleni. On the one side are RDP house owners from Phase Two and on the other are residents of Nyakathisa informal settlement.

Shack-dweller Zuko Mtyi has alleged that Phase Two residents beat him up two weeks ago after he helped a local electrician to connect electricity illegally at Mzumbe Street, which borders the two areas. “They kicked me with safety boots, slapped, punched and hit me with a stone, so that I lost consciousness,” he said.

The wound on his head is still visible. Western Cape police spokesperson Captain F C van Wyk confirmed that Mtyi had opened a case against his attackers.

Shack-dweller and community leader Siphokazi Fakela said, “The relationship between us and the house owners has changed as we now don’t greet each other or look each other in the eye. We now walk in groups or pairs because we are scared of being attacked by the house owners.”

Since October 2016, shack-dwellers started to draw electricity from street light boxes, which are located outside the RDP houses. Fakela says people used to get electricity from the RDP house owners and contribute towards their monthly electricity bills. But house owners asked for R500 or more per month.

“We know we break the law by making illegal connections, but we have no choice because City of Cape Town doesn’t give us electricity boxes,” said Fakela.

Shack-dweller Nombulelo Ngxovu said, “We are not happy that we steal electricity from the municipality, because stolen electricity makes our shacks and kids vulnerable to fires and electrocution.”

Phase Two resident and community leader Nomalanga Mankayi explained that there are often electricity outages due to the illegal connections.

Another community leader Noncedo Speliti said, “We want the city to remove these illegal electricity connections and install electricity boxes for the residents of the informal settlement.” Speliti said that Phase Two residents feared being attacked by people from the informal settlement for being “in the forefront in the fight against illegal connections”.

Councillor Anda Ntsodo, the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Area East, said: “While the City understands the plight of these residents, the Nyakathisa Informal Settlement is located on a proclaimed road reserve and therefore according to the Municipal Finance Management Act, the City is unable to rezone this land in order to provide services on this site.”

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TOPICS:  Electricity

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