COFIMVABA, October 16 – At least 50 South Africans people have been killed and 150 others injured nationwide in incidents linked to illegal and unsafe electricity connections in 2016/17.
Such illegal connections cost the South African power utility, Eskom a whopping R20 billion during the period.
Officials from the company disclosed the figures in Cofimvaba in the Chris Hani District Municipality of the Eastern Cape Province.
Indications are the deaths are most prevalent in the KwaZulu-Natal, which recorded ten deaths during the period. The Free State is the safest with no deaths recorded.
There were eight deaths in the Western Cape while Gauteng, Eastern Cape, Limpopo and North West followed with six deaths. Five deaths were recorded in Mpumalanga and three in the Northern Cape province.
In terms of injuries, KZN is again the most afflicted with 48 injuries while Gauteng had 34 injuries.
Other injuries were recorded in the Eastern Cape (20 injuries) Limpopo (15), North West (10), Mpumalanga (9), Western Cape (6), Northern Cape 5 and Free State (2).
Efforts to obtain figures from Eskom on figures from previous years were futile.
Meanwhile, Unathi Figlan, Senior Manager for Maintenance and Operations (Eastern Cape), raised concern at the deaths and injuries, which she said were avoidable.
She said apart from illegal and unsafe connections, other risks in the region include cable theft, objects obstructing power lines, overloading of plugs, low-hanging conductors, sub-standard wiring and repurposing of
The power utility has since embarked on a safety awareness programme around the Eastern Cape province.
“We are positioning Eskom as a caring corporate citizen, actively working in a partnership with all citizens to achieve safe use of electricity,” Figlan said.
The company is wary of conducting sweeps to disconnect illegal connections.
“This can however become risky as communities can respond by protesting and unrest,” Figlan stated.
The awareness campaign targets mostly school children.
“They (school children) are the worst affected by electrocutions. Also, if they are educated on the dangers of illegal and unsafe connections, they will be able to share the information with their parents and families,”
Eskom has conducted over 6 000 electricity awareness visits to local schools in Eastern Cape province between 2016/17.
Khanyisa Mdleleni, Speaker of the Intsika Yethu Municipality, pledged authorities’ commitment to work with Eskom to address the issue of illegal connections.
“We will work with Eskom and report illegal connections to police so that we address the loss of lives and other dangers,” she said.
– CAJ News