GEORGE NEWS - Illegal connections to electricity transformers in the informal settlement Mandela Village (Gushi'ndoda) in Zone 8, Thembalethu led to another power outage last Thursday, 4 April.
Later that same evening residents from the informal settlement took to the streets burning tyres at Fourways in Thembalethu, stoning several vehicles and damaging the traffic lights.
Police intervened and used stun grenades to disperse the protesters. There were also reports of stone throwing on the N2 and the highway between Pacaltsdorp and the Garden Route Mall was closed off until the Friday morning.
On Friday, with residents threatening "to burn down the town", George Mayor Melvin Naik, Municipal Manager Trevor Botha, as well as the directors Charles Lubbe, Steven Erasmus, Paul Gerber and Regenald Wesso, attended a meeting with the protesters in Nelson Mandela Boulevard.
Botha said this week that George Municipality does not condone violent protest and damage to municipal property as a means of negotiation. "The mayor advised the crowd that George Municipality will attempt to address some of the grievances as far as possible, provided that such resolution is within the legal framework of the law."
He added that the main complaint was that of no electricity. "The reality is that in this year alone, a third transformer has been damaged in this area because of illegal and dangerous electrical connections overloading and causing the total destruction of the equipment. The cost involved in replacing these electrical transformers is enormous and places a huge burden on service delivery. It will take a minimum of three months to procure and install the replacement transformers (x2), after which it will be essential for the communities to assist in preventing illegal connection in order to prevent a repeat of the same," said Botha.
Pointing out that the traffic lights at the Fourways intersection were again damaged, as in almost all the other protests, and stressing how much it costs to fix or replace, Botha said that the electro-technical department is in the process of building replacement S1 traffic light heads for Thembalethu which can be installed by the end of this week. "The costs for repair runs to approximately R5 000. When this intersection is upgraded to the new LED fittings, the replacement costs would run to approximately R100 000 as was the case with Nelson Mandela Boulevard, Garcia and Main intersections."
Stop illegal connections
George Municipality appealed to the residents of George to report any illegal electrical connections they are aware of, as this practice has led to fatalities and is one of the causes of the continuous power outages experienced in the various zones of Thembalethu.
Botha said legal consumers should seriously consider how these illegal connections affect them and their families. "An illegal connection not only puts the perpetrator in danger of electrocution, risking injury and death, but also the rest of the community. These connections lie across pathways and walkways where anyone passing can easily be electrocuted. An additional risk is that illegally connected wires can also make contact with other items such as roofs, gutters and washing lines, making these items live and able to conduct electricity."
"The human body can only withstand about 50 milli-ampere (less than 1% of the current drawn by an average kettle) through it, before a medical condition called ventricular fibrillation sets in. To safeguard people against this, each house with legal electricity and a tariff meter is fitted with an earth leakage protection unit. Children can easily be killed, due to their lower weight, as a result of illegal connections not having earth leakage protection."
An electricity connection is considered illegal when it is connected to the George municipal network without the organisation's permission. Wires are connected to all parts of the LV system, stretching from the transformer onward. Even LV bundled conductors are stripped of their insulation (in other words, damaged) to get access to points for connection.
The forms of electricity theft include illegal connections, illegal electrification schemes and meter tampering and bypassing. These illegal electrical thefts mostly occur in areas where illegal informal structures are built.
He said where people have connected themselves illegally, George Municipality will continue to actively find the perpetrators and lay criminal charges against them. "In terms of the Criminal Procedures Act, interference with and damage to municipal property could be regarded as sabotage and should someone be found guilty of such an offence, a maximum term of imprisonment of 30 years can follow."
Illegal connections should be reported on 044 803 9222 or 044 801 9222 or after hours on 044 801 6300.
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