Chaos erupted when residents of Klarinet took to the streets after illegal connections were taken out in the suburb.
The community chased municipal workers out, barricaded the road leading to Klarinet and clashed with police since July 18. On Monday, July 22 the situation became more volatile as police had to use rubber bullets to keep the angry mob at bay.
The scourge of illegal electricity connection has been an ongoing challenge in the municipality who is desperately trying to settle their Eskom bill. In June the municipality only managed to pay R30-million on its monthly consumption bill of R137-million.
This means that the Eskom bill grew with R107-million in June alone. According to the municipality their Eskom account on July 13 was R1 796 851 50400.
The wanton attacks of municipal workers could compromise service delivery as the municipality is considering withdrawing municipal workers in unpredictable areas.
“These unwarranted attacks previously led to the death of one of our employees who worked at the water department,” said Mr Kingdom Mabuza, municipal spokesperson.
Since the beginning of July, there has been a sharp escalation of such attacks and the worst affected department is the Technical Services.
A member of the Mayoral Committee responsible for Technical Services, Mduduzi Nkosi, was livid that workers were being attacked when they go out to service the community.
“The security of employees of the municipality when they are on the field working rests with the community. It becomes increasingly risky to dispatch workers to such hot-blooded areas,” said Nkosi.
Residents of Klarinet barricaded the road leading to Klarinet because the municipality tried to remove illegal connections in the area.
He further warned residents who destroy infrastructure when they have grievances,
“We cannot allow lawlessness in Emalahleni.”
WITBANK NEWS during a meeting on July 13 with the municipality asked what role the Red Ants play in such instances. The Red Ants are contracted to address evictions and illegal connections in Emalahleni Local Municipality.
It is believed that the Red Ants costs the municipality in the range of R200-million a year. The municipality did not deny or acknowledge this statement.
Earlier in July the Red Ants audited 300 houses in Thubelihle and found 290 of the 300 electrical meters bridged. A report was apparently given to the municipality, but nothing was done about the situation, because the workers fear for their lives. The municipality did not bother to answer the questions regarding the Red Ants.
“It is vital that electricity and cable thieves must be stopped, not only because of the impact on daily lives of residents and in the long term, economy and job creation, but also because of the deadly consequences,” Mr John Cornish, a local resident who uses the Klarinet road daily said.
“The negative impacts of illegal electricity connections include the astronomical costs of replacement of infrastructure and hiring security, the shutdown of business operations. Cable theft also results to power, communication lines and transport network outages and leads to negative investor perceptions.”
He like other residents wants to know if the municipality is simply going to throw in the towel or take other measurements to curb illegal connections.