‘You can only push people so far’

Dunoon residents say these are all-too-familiar sights in their community.

Power cuts and flooding plagued Dunoon last week, and residents are calling for permanent solutions to these ongoing problems.

Heavy rainfall causes serious damage to roads and people’s homes and there seems to be no end to the unplanned power cuts, say residents.

Nondumiso Mvela, from Ekuphumleni Road, said her lights were off from Friday June 25 to Thursday July 1.

“I can’t live like this anymore,” she said. “We get told all the time that the power cuts have to do with people stealing cables and illegal connections. But what is the end goal? Is Eskom just going to keep disconnecting the illegal connections and then leave just so that people can reconnect those illegal connections again? They wonder why people are always protesting for better service delivery. There’s only so far you can push and mistreat people.”

Eskom blamed illegal connections for the powers cuts.

“Areas that are severely affected are Atlantis, Bardale/Mfuleni, Bloekombos, Blue Downs, Crossroads, Delft, Driftsands, Dunoon, Khayelitsha, Nomzamo/Somerset West, Marikana/Phillipi, Rooidakke/Grabouw, Wallacedene, Wesbank and Witsand,” said Eskom.

Illegal connections were endemic in many of Cape Town’s informal settlements and often caused power cuts for paying customers, the statement said.

“Eskom technical staff regularly conduct network audits and remove illegal connections. However, when operators leave the area, the illegal connections are quickly replaced. Eskom is committed to the fight against illegal connections but also relies on support from members in the community. Eskom routinely engages community leaders, councillors, the SAPS, local government and other stakeholders to find solutions in preventing illegal connections.”

Greta Alexander, of Dunoon, claimed Eskom now blocked emails because she so frequently reported electricity faults.

“I have been fighting for years and years with them. There has to be some sort of long-term solution for our neighbourhoods. Why can’t they build things that can cover these electricity boxes to try to stop people from stealing and connecting illegally? Sometimes the power goes off for three days to a week. I send so many emails and I think they blocked me because my emails aren’t even going through. They say people must report but when we do, they block us,” she said.

With last week’s heavy rainfall, flooding came to many corners of Dunoon. Residents of Zwelitsha informal settlement and Dunoon say they have been struggling with swamped homes and roads.

Likhona Siyo, of Dunoon, said her street had been flooded last week.

“I think the sad part is that most people in our community have given up on ever getting help from our government. It’s always the same issues, and we get the same response – silence. We are clearly not important to these people who call ourselves our leaders. Our people have to fix the drains and fill in the potholes themselves because the government won’t do anything about it. There was a protest on Malibongwe Drive a few weeks ago at the end of June. There was another protest today (Monday July 5) and this all has to do with service delivery.”

City spokesman Luthando Tyhalibongo blamed the flooding on illegal dumping that caused drains to block in heavy rains.

“It goes without saying that when the system gets blocked due to illegal dumping or sand ingress, that the roads will get flooded,” he said.

But residents say they can’t always police everyone who litters and that it is the City’s responsibility to make sure its infrastructure is not easily damaged.

JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security, said: “City officials continue to help with the digging of trenches and by constructing canals to lead flood water away from affected areas, where possible, and monitoring high-risk priority areas on a daily basis to determine flooding risks and occurrences, while giving advice to residents on how to reduce risks.”

The public can report flooding and drain blockages to the Transport Information Centre at 0800 65 64 63 or Transport.Info@capetown.gov.za.

Eskom has also appealed to the public to report illegal connections, electricity theft, tampering, cable theft and vandalism to 0800 11 27 22 or the police.