Unlawful electricity removed in Walmer

Municipal officials and residents removed more than 500 illegal electricity connections in the area
Picture: Mark West

Township residents told safe, electricity on the way shortly

More than 500 illegal electricity connections were removed in Walmer Township by the residents and municipal workers yesterday.

In cases where the residents were not home, municipal workers removed the illegal connections, while those who were at home voluntarily took theirs down.

This followed a visit to the Airport Valley informal settlement in the area by metro infrastructure, electricity and engineering head Annette Lovemore and acting executive director for electricity and energy Peter Neilson.

The aim of the visit was to provide an update on the progress of the safe electrification programme endorsed by the municipality.

It came after the Community Street substation had to be disconnected on Sunday due to an overload caused by illegal connections coming from Walmer Township, leaving residents and businesses without power until yesterday morning.

Lovemore said the only way to restore power safely was to remove the illegal connections from the station.

She said 1 000 illegal connections had been found in the Walmer Township area, while the city was estimated to have 25 000.

Lovemore said the metro was working on a three-year plan to eradicate the problem.

“We find that across the metro, particularly in the northern areas and informal settlements like Chris Hani, people who have illegal connections are drawing from the power which feeds those who have formal connections and as a result, it becomes unsafe and the whole system becomes overloaded,” Lovemore said.

Solar panels had also been installed in other informal settlements in the Seaview and Malabar areas, as they had no formal electricity connections either.

The Airport Valley project was part of a larger plan to eradicate illegal connections across the entire Walmer Township area.

This project was expected to be completed by June 13.

“This is a politically sensitive situation, because we are going to have to make decisions on what areas are prioritised, and why, but I think what [customer relations officer] Reggie [Tyeke] said was very important – that we cannot make decisions sitting in offices, we have to make decisions which involves the ward councillors and the communities,” Lovemore said.

Neilson said another avenue to follow was the provision of 75 kilowatts of electricity for residents who register to be part of the Assistance to the Poor subsidy.

However, one of the biggest problems they faced in trying to eradicate the problem of illegal connections was a lack of funding.

“We have lobbied various parastatals and other organisations, [to] grant funds, to try and assist in funding, although we haven’t been very successful yet,” he said.

The metro’s budget for 2016-17 allocated R3-million for the Airport Valley project, while a further R8.5-million would be allocated in the 2017/18 budget.

A potential grant of R20-million was also in the pipeline.

Neilson estimated that illegal connections cost the city about R60-million each year.

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