East London residents demand that electricity connections be restored

Since it formed in 2008, residents of Harry Gwala informal settlement in Duncan Village, East London have had no legal access to electricity. As a result, they have been using electricity drawn from a street light mast through izinyoka (illegal connections).

In April, the street light caught fire, leaving almost 100 households without electricity, GroundUp reports.

Residents are demanding that the municipality fix the light so they can re-install their izinyoka.

"We need electricity back, whether izinyoka or not. They have allowed us to use them for 10 years already. Life is hell without electricity. We are the only area in this township without poles for electricity. It would be even better if the municipality can install boxes inside our shacks," said resident Nosandile Melani.

Read: Duncan Village residents in the dark after illegal electricity connections trips new transformer

Residents, such as Xolelwa Mbangi, even installed DStv and were paying for a service they could not use.

Melani, who lives with five children, said: "We have no problem with buying electricity. But for now, that pole should be fixed so that our lives can get back to normal."

Melani added that criminals took advantage of the darkness.

Ward councillor Ntombizandile Mhlola (ANC) said she had reported the issue to the City's electricity department.

"I believe they came to see the damage caused by illegal connection to the street light. I will [make] a follow up [enquiry] and check how far they are with providing an alternative way – for electricity to be accessed by the residents. It is the municipality's duty to install electricity in informal settlements. The City has failed the people of Harry Gwala in this instance," said Mhlola.

Read more: Community known for illegal power connections to finally get formal electricity

Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality spokesperson Samkelo Ngwenya said: "The municipality is in the process of removing all illegal electricity connections in Duncan Village … We are doing everything possible to make the electricity network safe, through the whole area."

"With the issue of the Harry Gwala informal settlement, I will be in touch with the electricity department and try to figure out what has caused the delay in officially electrifying the area."