Besides hunger, children relying on a feeding project at a Dunoon school also have to worry about getting electrocuted.
Illegal electricity connections outside the Silverleaf Primary School gates threaten the safety of children collecting meals and food parcels, says principal, Nomathemba Vumazonke.
The school helps some 200 children every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, relying on donations from local businesses and the government school nutrition programme.
According to Ms Vumazonke, the electricity hazard has been a problem since September last year. She has complained in the past about illegal connections to a pole next to the school with wiring that hangs over the playground. Earlier this year, Ms Vumazonke told Tabletalk a child had nearly been electrocuted by exposed wires while playing on the jungle gym (“Illegal wires put children at risk,” Tabletalk, February 26).
Eskom workers disconnected the illegal connections but they were soon reconnected, she said.
“On Friday (May 15), Eskom was here just outside the school to disconnect more of the illegal wires. The people who do the illegal connections stood right there watching the officials do the disconnections. As soon as the Eskom people left, they reconnected. It’s a never-ending cycle,” Ms Vumazonke said.
Western Cape Department of Education spokeswoman Millicent Merton said there were no longer wires hanging over the playground, and such hazards were reported to Eskom. The school was monitoring the situation closely, she added.
Governing body chairman Lungile Mdayi said that while the wires over the playground had gone, others at the school gate still posed a danger.
“We have kids here each week coming to get food, and we can’t have them skipping over live wires or risking wires above falling on them when they enter the school. We have made a plan to let the kids enter the school and line up inside the school grounds instead of queuing outside the premises,” he said.
Ms Vumazonke said intruders had damaged a school perimeter fence climbing it to connect wires to nearby electricity poles.
“I will report this to SAPS and see what happens,” she said. “As of now, I don’t see anything happening to the people doing these illegal acts. I don’t believe Eskom or the police are following where these wires come from to possibly stop this happening for good.”
Noluthando Hashi, who lives near the school, said she hated the disregard those making illegal connections showed to their neighbours and the children.
“Our children play outside, when there isn’t a lockdown of course. Now we have to worry about electricity wires falling on them. This is just selfish. And this has been happening for some time, but we don’t see anything that the government is doing.”
Another nearby resident, Thembalethu Meke, said he didn’t think anything would be done to fix the problem because it wasn’t election time.
“We all know, the only time we will see things starting to happen here is when we have to vote someone in power. SAPS won’t do anything because we are just a drop in the ocean, and, to them, this will just be added to the many issues faced by our people.”
Ward 104 councillor Lubabalo Makeleni said electrifying the informal settlements was the only way to solve the problem. Covid-19 had stalled a project to electrify the Siyahlala informal settlement in Dunoon, he said.
“Last year, we had someone who was electrocuted trying to steal electricity. What I don’t understand is why people would be so careless because their children go to these schools. Their neighbour’s kids play in these areas. I understand that people need electricity, but it should be done in an organised manner.”
He urged residents to report illegal activity. “The police and Eskom will not be there every minute of every day. It’s up to the residents to report these cases.”
Milnerton police spokeswoman Captain Nopaya Madyibi said they were aware of the situation in Dunoon
“The Milnerton visible policing commander had a meeting with the councillor and Eskom officials regarding illegal connections, and the police officials do accompany Eskom officials when they do disconnections,” she said.
Eskom did not comment by the time this edition went to print.