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South Africa: Neighbours in Standoff Over Illegal Electrical Connections

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Over 200 households were left in the dark when an overloaded powerline exploded this week

Missionvale homeowners are in a tense standoff with neighbouring informal settlement residents over illegal connections.

The informal settlement residents protested on Friday when they were prevented from reconnecting the wires.

The ward councillor says the community will meet on Monday to hash out their grievances.

Missionvale township in Port Elizabeth remained tense on Friday afternoon after about 80 Waterville informal settlement residents blocked Old Uitenhage Road with burning tyres, demanding electricity.

The protest follows the recent removal of most of the illegal connections from poles meant for neighbouring RDP homeowners from Boesak’s Ground.

The trouble began on Tuesday night when one of the main electrical poles in the area became overloaded and exploded as a result of the webbing izinyoka lines. This left nearly 200 households in the dark. While power was restored on Wednesday, residents from the RDP houses decided to remove the illegal connections.

At 4am on Friday, a group from the informal settlement responded by closing the road with burning tyres and rocks. Public Order Police were called to intervene as protesters approached the ward councillor’s office, accusing him of ignoring their pleas for services.

The area was established four years ago and has 628 households.

Thembisa Brukwe from the informal settlement said they have been at loggerheads with the homeowners who have been foiling each of their attempts to reconnect the izinyoka lines. “The RDP homeowners refused [to allow reconnections] and threatened to burn down our shacks. I couldn’t sleep last night in fear of being torched in the house with my mother who is 82,” she said.