Two Buffalo City Metro suburbs have been rocked by illegal electricity connections this week resulting in the arrest of at least one resident and damage to one home.
The two separate incidents have left hundreds of residents from Orange Grove informal settlement near the East London Airport and in Mzamomhle in Gonubie in the dark.
Yesterday, angry residents from Orange Grove told of how one resident was arrested in the morning.
The suspect’s teary cousin Nompumelelo Nelson said: “He was arrested in the morning after the police thought he was illegally connecting electricity when they found him next to the sub-station. But that is not what he was doing. He was coming back from the shops.”
East London police spokeswoman Warrant Officer Hazel Mqala said the 34-year-old man, who cannot be named until he appears in court, was arrested for malicious damage to property.
“He has been kept in custody at the Fleet Street police station and will appear in court tomorrow [today].
Another Orange Grove resident, Sibongile Mateza, said BCM continuously disconnected them and on Sunday at least five shacks burnt down and one person died “as people are no longer used to using candles and matches”.
Asked when BCM would install electricity in the informal settlement, BCM spokeswoman Bathandwa Diamond said: “As the city we are facing a challenge in developing the areas because of the land [on which the shacks are built]”.
She added: “This makes it virtually impossible for the metro to invest on land that doesn’t meet the requirements. This is why we discourage people from invading and occupying spaces of land as it poses serious challenges for service delivery.”
In Mzamomhle, where the houses have formal electricity connections and shacks don’t, disgruntled residents from both shacks and houses told the Daily Dispatch of how the community was divided following a fight on Sunday that left at least one house damaged when rocks were thrown by both sides.
Resident Nomawethu Tshemese said: “On Sunday, we clashed with the people from the informal settlement near our homes after they connected on the electricity pole meant to distribute electricity to us.
“There are so many shacks and they all want to connect from this one pole. When we refused to let that happen and removed their wires, they came to us and started throwing bricks at us,” Tshemese said.
However, residents from the shacks denied throwing the bricks first and said they were attacked first.
Diamond said the metro was currently finalising layout plans for the electrification of shacks in the Mzamomhle area.
“In this financial year, the city is planning to electrify 1600 formal and 1000 informal dwellings. Mzamomhle is one of those informal settlements that will benefit from the shack electrification programme,” she said. — firstname.lastname@example.org