By Anita Dangazele
For the last four years, over 700 families in the informal settlement of Elephant Park in Wells Estate, Gqeberha, have been paying R200 a month for illegal electricity connections.
But on Wednesday, the crippling payments were made a thing of the past as Nelson Mandela Bay switched on its new electrification system in time for the festive season.
Since settling in Elephant Park in 2018, residents have had private agreements to pay a monthly fee to neighbouring RDP homes to share their power via illegal connections.
Resident and unemployed father of two, Simphiwe Molaphekoa, told Scrolla.Africa that he has had to use his children’s support grant to pay the monthly fee of R200 in order to stay connected.
“I am relieved and happy that I no longer have to rent electricity from other people. I can now use the R200 to do more for my children,” he said.
From Wednesday onwards, homes will now be connected to the grid and prepaid electricity meters will be installed in each household.
Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality’s electricity and energy directorate officially switched on the new electrification system.
Another resident, Vuyiswa Funana, said although they are happy to finally have electricity, they are hesitant to remove their illegal connections as they have had to wait for a long time before the municipality delivered on its promise.
“I won’t lie, we’re happy to finally have electricity, even though we’re the last in this community to get electricity. We’ve had to wait for a very long time to get electricity.” She said they are reluctant to remove the illegal connections “until each and every shack has been connected”.
The municipality’s Electricity and Energy political head, Lance Grootboom, said these residents have benefited from the city’s innovative electrification programme which is actively working to curb illegal connections and vandalism.
“These new smart devices will prevent residents from tampering with their meters. We have also replaced copper cables with aluminium ones to counter cable theft and vandalism,” said Grootboom.
According to Grootboom, the project was launched as part of an effort to reduce electricity losses and ensure the generation of future revenue.
“Customers have been given a chance to self-report all types of tampering with electricity infrastructure with the assurance that all associated fees and charges would be waived for the duration of the applicable period,” he said.
The amnesty period is applicable from 21 November to 1 February 2023, after which the municipality will apply harsh measures if anyone is caught tampering with the devices.
Pictured above: The electricity cable installation
Image source: Anita Dangazele