A six-hour joint operation by City Power, Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) and the South African Police Service (SAPS) at the Princess Crossing informal settlement in Roodepoort on Wednesday January 27 resulted in the removal of several loads of volatile electric wires used by residents to connect power illegally.
Illegal electricity connections don’t only cost the City of Johannesburg millions of rands every year, but they also result in many people – mostly children – being electrocuted after coming into contact with live electricity wires.
In the past financial year, 18 deaths linked to illegal power connections were reported. In the same period, City Power and national power utility Eskom lost a combined total of R3-billion in revenue to illegal connections. These illegal power connections also overload the system and cause power disruptions.
City Power, the City of Johannesburg’s power utility, says hardly a week passes without someone being electrocuted.
Residents of the 20-year-old Region C informal settlement say just last week a young boy was electrocuted while playing outside his parents’ home.
Malcolm de Lange, City Power’s Operations Manager, said a total of 16 bakkies were used to transport four-and-a-half tons of deadly wires away from the informal settlement. A vehicle belonging to City Power had its windows smashed when some of the residents tried to prevent technicians from removing the exposed live wires criss-crossing the densely populated settlement. Police were able to quell stone-throwing incidents and no injuries were reported.
To ensure that no further illegal connections took place, City Power technicians welded all doors of mini-substations in the vicinity. Residents agreed that illegal connections were unsafe but said they had no option as they were unemployed and needed power to cook, refrigerate their food and watch television.
“It’s not that we enjoy living in such squalor. But we are poor and have been on the waiting list for proper housing for years. What do they expect from us? We are still awaiting the better life that we have been promised all these years,” said an elderly woman who declined to be identified.