Frustrated Van area residents crowded the Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality technical services building last Tuesday, demanding a meeting with the director after having several power outages in the area since Sunday.
The residents of the areas, including New Vale, Aloevale, Sabatha, New Rest and Parkvale said the power cuts were the result of illegal connections which the municipality apparently had no resolve to disconnect.
“On Sunday we had no power in the whole area from 9am. We thought after load-shedding ended we would have power, but it was only on for 10 minutes. On Monday it was the same thing,” said chairman of the Van committee, Cliff Pringle.
Pringle said the situation had become unacceptable, while labelling the problem of connections as “lack of political will”.
“We know there are many people who bypass electricity, making use of illegal connections. That is creating an overload on the system and the councillors know this.
“To me it seems there is a lack of political will because councillors are supposed to make sure people comply. I have made so many proposals to the mayor and speaker, from giving people with illegal connections the assurance they will not be penalised on condition they come clean, to the installation of smart meters.
“I have spoken to municipal employees and they say they know about the problem and the councillors and mayor know about the problem. But they are the ones who go out and tell people not to worry about being disconnected,” he said.
If the problem did not get attention, Pringle said Van residents would take action.
“If councillors think they can play a political game with us, they are in for a big surprise. If they think this is how they will get votes (by people not paying) they have another think coming. If they think we cannot make things ungovernable, they must think again. People are sick and tired of this,” he added.
Millicent Adonis from Popcorn Valley, who was also at technical services, said: “We heard about ‘the twins’ (individuals the community suspect were behind the illegal connects), what they did to us on Sunday was very bad. We had no power the whole day while other people had. We must buy electricity and paraffin. We are too scared to switch on our appliances because they will be ruined.”
Rashida April from Aloevale added: “I am unemployed. We have small children who have to eat, but how are we supposed to cook without power? The municipality must do something because if they fail us we will act.”
In reply to an email to EMLM about the outages and crowding at the technical building, EMLM spokesperson Lonwabo Kowa said: “Ideally members of the community should consult their ward councillors or ask for information. The municipality respects the views of the Van community, but unfortunately there was no one in the offices. Personnel were isolated or quarantined and offices were closed.
“The system was overloaded as these areas were using more electricity than the system could take. This excessive usage is also influenced by illegal connections. Municipal officials have, on numerous occasions, disconnected them but these are reconnected by criminals. This will be resolved when smart meters are installed across Enoch Mgijima. Illegal connections are responsible for most outages in Enoch Mgijima.”