Durban community fears life in the dark without streetlights

The City has hired private security after losing millions of rand annually to cable theft and vandalism

| By

Members of the Community Policing Forum in Bester township marched on youth day to raise awareness about issues in the community which include the lack of streetlights due to cable theft. Residents say the area has been without adequate lighting for more than a year. Photo: Tsoanelo Sefoloko

  • Residents of Bester near KwaMashu in Durban are pleading with the eThekwini Municipality to fix and replace streetlights in the area.
  • They say robberies and crime have increased as more people have to travel to and from work in the dark.
  • The City has since hired two private security companies to prevent rampant cable theft which has already resulted in the loss of millions of rand.
  • But residents and the CPF say this is not enough to ensure their safety.

The eThekwini Municipality has hired private security to guard its electrical infrastructure to mitigate rampant cable theft in the community of Bester near KwaMashu, Durban.

Residents say they have been living in the dark for more than a year now because almost all of the streetlights in Bester are either broken or have had their cables stolen. They say the situation has become worse in winter with more people leaving and returning from work in darkness.

Some people have begun charging between R20 and R70 to escort residents walking from their homes to public transport. We spoke to about a dozen residents, mostly women, who confirmed that they have to rely on the same alleged cable thieves to escort them.

Resident Bongi Mzobe told GroundUp that she quit her job because she could no longer pay the young man to escort her before 5am. “I would leave the house in the dark and come back late. In the morning I give the boy R10 and another R10 if I come back late. It was very frustrating because I was not getting paid much, and I still had to pay for transportation,” she said.

“The fear of walking alone and hearing about people being robbed was too much. I could no longer take it, so I quit my job.”

Community Policing Forum chairman, Thulani Hlophe, said that for months they have been using torches to assist in patrolling the area. “Community members bought us torches to patrol. The tricky part is that when we are coming the criminals see us, so it’s also not safe for us. Unlike when there’s lights, we can walk freely and target the crime hotspots,” said Hlophe.

On Youth Day two weeks ago, members of the CPF marched through the streets of Bester to show the community that they are serious about dealing with the high rate of crime and robberies. Hlophe said the vandalised streetlights were among the top issues raised in their memorandum.

Mdu Nkosi, Inkatha Freedom Party’s eThekwini district chairman, said the provincial and national governments are failing to properly fund community policing forums. “It’s so sad what our people go through while there’s a security company being paid every month to guard the cables, and they are failing.”

Municipality spokesperson, Lindiwe Khuzwayo, confirmed that two security companies signed a two-year contract, which started in October, to guard the cables and streetlights. When asked about the fee and conditions of the security contracts, Khuzwayo said, “We are not at liberty to share finances for the contract.”

According to Khuzwayo, the City has already lost millions of rand as a result of cable theft. She said cable theft is a serious issue in many communities.

“The City has always taken a strong stance against cable theft as it leads to devastating and tragic consequences, such as loss of life as well as damage to infrastructure costing the municipality millions of rand annually,” she said.

TOPICS:  Crime Street lights

Next:  Under water for two weeks: Cape Town’s Covid informal settlement

Previous:  Labour court fires dishonest National Lotteries Commission employee

© 2023 GroundUp. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and GroundUp, and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.

We put an invisible pixel in the article so that we can count traffic to republishers. All analytics tools are solely on our servers. We do not give our logs to any third party. Logs are deleted after two weeks. We do not use any IP address identifying information except to count regional traffic. We are solely interested in counting hits, not tracking users. If you republish, please do not delete the invisible pixel.