Illegal electricity connections are “spiralling out of control” says City of Cape Town

Loadshedding has made the problem worse

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Municipal workers dismantled illegal electricity connections in Philippi last week. Photo: Sandiso Phaliso

The City of Cape Town has spent R83-million so far this year on repairs to vandalised electricity infrastructure, and the situation is spiralling out of control, the City says.

Last week the City disconnected hundreds of illegal electricity connections in Baghdad informal settlement in Philippi, in a joint operation with the South African Police Service (SAPS).

Residents vowed to reconnect the wires immediately, despite the risk of deepening tension with residents of formal houses nearby. “How are we supposed to live without power?” asked one Baghdad resident who did not want to be named.

“We have been talking to the City to legally electrify our homes but they say we are living on private land and they cannot connect us, that is why we are connecting illegally.”

“They took our cables but we will buy the wires and reconnect,” she said.

“Every time the people reconnect, we will call the City,” said Mpumzi Ntoni, who lives in an RDP house nearby Baghdad. He said the illegal connections caused trouble for people in the houses. “The electricity trips because of the illegal connections and we are happy about this operation [by the City],” Ntoni told GroundUp.

“These illegal connections are causing tensions between people living in RDP houses and people living in informal settlements.”

Mayco member for energy Beverley van Reenen said there had been an “alarming” increase in theft and vandalism of electricity infrastructure. The amount spent by the City on repairs had leapt from about R20-million in 2019 and R14-million in 2020 to R56-million in 2022 and about R83-million in 2023.

She said since the end of the Covid lockdown “the growth has been exponential and appears to be spiralling out of control”.

In the 2022-23 financial year the City had dismantled more than 900 illegal connections, mostly in the southern and northern city.

Loadshedding makes the situation worse because people have more time to strip equipment while electricity is off and it is dark outside, she said.

“Criminals have seemingly taken advantage of Eskom’s recent constant loadshedding to target our infrastructure. Philippi is one of the areas which has been especially hard hit, and this often causes prolonged electricity outages. We …will not allow these acts of criminality to have an impact on the supply to residents,” said van Reenen.

TOPICS:  Electricity

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