Un-Happy valley of darkness after thieves and vandals strike

CABLE theft and vandalism at Nelson Mandela Bay's Happy Valley have plunged the iconic gardens into darkness, leaving the municipality with no choice but to dig deep into its coffers to buy "vandalproof" infrastructure.

Although there were two permanent private security officers stationed at Happy Valley before the festive season kicked off, thieves still stole switch-box covers as well as the electrical infrastructure inside.

The municipality's acting executive director for electricity and energy, Peter Neilson, said "everything has been stolen" at the valley.

"Unfortunately, the whole western side of Happy Valley has been totally vandalised.

"Although it hasn't been overnight, as the weather improved and people started walking around there, more people saw an opportunity to steal.

"We'll be changing the kiosks [steel electrical boxes] to get strong kiosks that would make it very difficult for thieves to steal.

"They are vandal-proof boxes, so the thieves would have to dig up the cables to be able to get anything, not just be able to bash the box open with a hammer," Neilson said.

Asked how the cables were stolen while the valley was supposed to be guarded by two security officers, Neilson said it was a big area to control. "When you have absolute organised crime, security is pointless because when it's planned they go in quickly before the security realises they are there," he said.

In a letter to The Herald, a Uitenhage resident, G Daniell, expressed disappointment at seeing the valley in darkness during a family visit over the holiday season.

Daniell said it felt unsafe and the darkness "spoilt the fantasy atmosphere which used to make it so popular for the kids". Humewood ward councillor Dean Biddulph said he had asked the municipality's electricity and energy department – before the official opening of the festive season – to ensure the valley was ready for the summer season.

"I personally went through the entire valley with a senior electrician and was shocked to discover the extent of vandalism and theft of electrical cable from the area. Steel switch-box covers were stolen along with the electrical infrastructure inside.

"Also, an electrical subcontractor who had worked in the valley had blown up one of the transformers, rendering a large stretch of the lighting unserviceable.

"What made the entire fiasco even more disappointing was the fact the Beach Office had engaged the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality [NMMU] art department to create a number of new scenes and these could not be fully appreciated."