It is a sorrowful picture for those desperate to have at least some semblance of quality of life. But ironically, living with death on their doorstep has become a way of that life for a number of disadvantaged Nelson Mandela Bay Metro communities because of illegal power cable connections.
In a modern-day society, it is unacceptable these indigent residents are left with little choice but to play this treacherous Russian roulette on a daily basis.
The stakes are high when it comes to electricity theft.
Apart from the potential fatal consequences or severe injury, there is also the threat to homes. As it is, there has been tragic loss of life – with children particularly vulnerable when playing outside – and scores left homeless because of fires.
But it is not difficult to understand why residents of Missionvale, Vastrap and Walmer township are prepared to take such frightening risks.
Frustrated by their seemingly endless wait for RDP homes, which some believe they will never see in their lifetimes, for many electricity is seen as a basic necessity – and illegal connections the only solution to their woes because they are unable to afford paraffin.
On the flip side, the cost to the city’s coffers of theft and tampering with meters runs into hundreds of millions of rands every year – losses the municipality must stem as a matter of urgency if it wants, as new political head of electricity Annette Lovemore has promised, to spend money on supplying safe and stable power.
After all, any losses incurred have a knock-on effect in terms of overall service delivery and electricity tariffs.
In any event, swift action cannot happen soon enough given that another life could be lost at any moment.
But it is also the poor performance of Amat – the company tasked with the job of drastically reducing theft – which must be scrutinised.
An apparent miniscule 1% improvement in the second phase of its contract – yet to be verified – does not instill confidence and there needs to be a serious re-think if there is not a significant improvement in its results.
This is a priority issue which has been well-publicised previously and the assurance by the new administration that it has the political will to address it must now translate into deeds.