POWER STRUGGLE BETWEEN SQUATTERS AND HOMEOWNERS

Mkhuseli Sizani

RDP owners claim izinyoka cables cause power disruptions as well as the most horrible deaths – but squatters say they can’t live without electricity.

So the stand-off is real.

Protest marches are common in Nelson Mandela Bay where residents block roads with burning tyres and rocks demanding electricity. Under the banner of “Power by the people for the poor people”, squatters demand electricity and do izinyoka connections. Frustrated RDP owners resist and often the confrontations are physical.

In July, a Nkandla township community leader was shot and wounded after he led his community to remove izinyoka connections. In the same month, four shacks belonging to Endlovini illegal connectors were torched and demolished. 

Twice this month, Waterville squatters clashed with Missionvale RDP homeowners after a transformer and electric box exploded because of being overloaded by illegal connections. 

Nandipha Mehlala, a Waterville Community leader said: “We do izinyoka connections because our municipality is slow in giving us electricity. Most of us are surviving on child support grants. Our area started in 2016 and has about 628 shacks and we don’t have electricity.” 

He said a litre of paraffin costs R15. By connecting directly to a transformer or an electric pole they save more money to buy food.

“But we are clashing with RDP homeowners. They want us to connect to their homes at a fee of R250 a month. This leads to tension,” he said. 

Chairperson of the Informal Settlements Forum in Nelson Mandela Bay, Sipho Ntsondwa said their call for electricity is never heard.

“Eight shack electrification projects have stopped because the municipality has no money,” he said. 

Ward 31 councillor Luyolo Nombola said the shacks are built underneath an Eskom powerline and the municipality is assessing whether they are suitable for electrification. 

“Even then, that won’t happen now because the municipality has a long list of areas waiting for electricity.”