Sixty-three people in informal settlements have been killed by illegal electricity connections in the Buffalo City (BCM) Metro in the past three years.
The most recent case was in Mzamomhle on Wednesday when a 25-year-old man allegedly busy trying to connect an illegal wire to a transformer up a pole was electrocuted and died.
Sakhiwo Mangxoyi, from Mzamomhle informal settlement in Gonubie, was found hanging from the transformer close to his home on Wednesday evening at 7pm.
Mangxoyi was electrocuted while trying to connect a wire to the transformer after some the shacks lost power on Wednesday evening.
Mangxoyi’s electrocution came a day after the BCM negotiated with the community to allow a contractor to finish the second phase of an ongoing electrification project.
The city was electrifying new RDP houses when their contractor was chased out by the community demanding that the entire area be formally electrified.
Mzwandile Peter, father of Mangxoyi, blamed his community for his son’s tragic death.
He said he had been begging the community to stop asking his son to tamper with electrical wires, but those pleas had fallen on deaf ears.
“I am now without a son and I have not even seen a single person from all those that were forcing this boy to go up that pole.
“My family is my only source of support in a situation that has been created by the anxiety of the community,” said Peter.
Peter was called from church to go to the horrific scene and was one of those who helped bring his son down from the pole.
It took two hours to retrieve the body.
Mzamomhle has 3100 shacks that draw power through illegal connections.
“The community that asks these young boys to fiddle with these wires needs to know that they are asking our children to risk their lives,” said Peter.
Mzamomhle youth leader Cwenga Maqashu said they had been pleading with the authorities, including their local councillor, to electrify the settlement.
He said: “When the community plea fell on deaf ears, they asked this boy to connect illegal electricity so they could have light in their houses but unfortunately he died.”
BCM spokesman Samkelo Ngwenya said the loss of life was regrettable and that the city planned to eradicate illegal connections by introducing formal electricity supply to the area.
“A loss of life in such an incident is regrettable and very unfortunate. In the coming week the executive mayor [Xola Pakati] will pronounce at the state of the metro address the city’s plans to accelerate the electrification of informal settlements across the municipality,” said Ngwenya.
In the last eight months the Buffalo City has lost millions in revenue from the illegal connectors.
In a recent report tabled to the council, it was stated that the metro lost R95.8-million in electricity revenue between July 2016 and February 2017.
Buffalo City has 154 informal settlements, according to the report but the municipality has managed to electrify only 21 informal settlement areas.
The settlement hardest hit by electrocution deaths is Duncan Village which has recorded 20 between 2014 and 2017, followed by Mdantsane which has recorded 10 deaths.
The ages of the victims range from two years to 48 and most of those who die are male.
Infrastructure and engineering portfolio head councillor Ncedo Kumbaca said the problem was that trying to end illegal connections was like chasing a moving target because of the fast growth of informal settlements.
But he said the city had a plan.
“These illegal connections affect service delivery and put the municipality at risk of losing its National Energy Regulator Services of South Africa licence if we do not curb these illegal connections,” warned Kumbaca. — firstname.lastname@example.org with additional reporting by Bongani Fuzile