Electricity theft blamed for 3-week outage in Joe Slovo

On Thursday March 18, City electricity staff restored power to Joe Slovo.

Joe Slovo residents say they were without power for three weeks because of illegal connections to a transformer in a nearby squatter camp.

The Siqalo settlement next to the neighbourhood starting growing in 2017 on land left vacant when the Western Cape Education Department closed an illegal school.

In 2019, Joe Slovo residents complained about being threatened by those stealing electricity from the transformer (“Joe Slovo residents intimidated by electricity thieves,” Tabletalk, August 28, 2019). At the time, residents said the illegal connections were causing frequent power cuts.

Residents said the City had only restored power to the area last Thursday, after it had been off for three weeks. Nomsa Skhova, of Joe Slovo, said the power had come on for brief periods over that time, but for the most part they had been without electricity since the beginning of March.

“We’ve reported this daily to the municipality and Eskom and nothing was ever done,” she said. “I live near Siqalo. The issue is that when the electricity thieves do their thing, power goes out in the houses near Siqalo, but the informal settlement itself gets power. And then eventually the power goes off at Siqalo as well. It’s a regular thing, and it doesn’t seem like anyone is doing anything about it.”

The power was restored on Thursday but residents say it was off again the next day.

Vathiswa Tom, lives in Khozi Drive, a street adjacent to Siqalo. She said that in her street and others around it, they endured frequent power cuts.

“The power cuts are part of our lives now. I’m just scared that one day one of these transformers will explode, and then we won’t have electricity here for good or someone could get hurt. The informal settlements are also at risk of catching fire. We are so close to Siqalo, we could also lose everything because of fires in the area caused by illegal connections,” she said.

According to other residents, some houses still had no power after the electricity was fixed on Thursday.

On Friday evening, the City said there was a large power outage in Joe Slovo but electricity had been restored to about half the area. “City electricity teams are still working hard on restoring the entire area. It is expected that work will continue tomorrow (Saturday March 20). The City is doing its best to resolve this matter and thanks residents for their understanding,” a City statement said.

Ward 4 councillor, Wandisile Ngeyi said Siqalo did not get electricity services as it was not yet recognised by the City, and illegal connections there were causing power cuts in Joe Slovo.

“All those connected to electricity in that informal settlement are connected illegally. This causes a big problem for the people living around that area who are rightfully supposed to be connected to that transformer. Our officials went there again yesterday [Sunday] to fix the issues again,” he said.

He urged Joe Slovo residents to report those responsible for the illegal connections.

“A plan is currently on the table to identify just how many people live in these informal settlements in Joe Slovo and how many are in need of City services,” he said. “The bigger picture, however, is to identify land where some of the people of Joe Slovo can be moved permanently to ease the strain on services in that area.”