According to residents of Witpoortjie, illegal electricity connections in a nearby informal settlement are causing disruption and safety concerns for paying electricity users in surrounding areas. These unauthorised connections, reportedly made by foreigners living in the area, run from Boshoff Street along President Road, near Austalorp Road in Princess.
Johannesburg City Power has been tasked with addressing the issue, emphasising that illegal connections pose unfairness to paying customers as their power is frequently interrupted by non-payers who overload the system, leading to crashes. This inconvenience affects households and businesses that legitimately pay for their electricity.
Isaac Mangena, a spokesperson for City Power, highlighted that illegal connections also destroy photocells controlling streetlights, straining the network as the lights remain on throughout the day. Residents expressed frustration, pointing out the risks posed to children playing near open cables at the park, which also damages the roads. They urged the municipality to prioritise the disconnection of illegal connections.
City Power strongly emphasised the unsafe nature of these illegal connections, noting that they result in malfunctions, increased trips, burnt cables, abnormal voltage fluctuations, and even fires in private homes. The issue has also impacted the railroad network, with concerns raised about thieves hiding in the tall grass along the railway section.
PRASA, the railway network agency, stated that they were previously unaware of the situation and pledged to send technicians to investigate and disconnect any illegal connections found. Residents have made efforts to locate and disconnect the cables but claim they are reinstalled during load-shedding. These cables are deliberately concealed along the train tracks with trees and leaf branches.
PRASA acknowledged the safety implications for residents and mentioned plans for major rehabilitation work in the affected corridor to resume train services later in the year. City Power attributed the proliferation of illegal connections to the influx of individuals seeking economic opportunities in Johannesburg, leading to the establishment of informal settlements without adequate accommodation. They urged the community and businesses to participate in programs to safeguard electricity infrastructure.
The utility emphasised its commitment to protecting the network and infrastructure against criminal activities, intending to collaborate with law enforcement agencies to curb such behaviour. They called on the community to combat illegal connections and actively engage in community initiatives to safeguard electricity infrastructure.
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Photo: Supplied by Roodepoort Record