Swift interventions and interactions by the political leadership of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality with the people of Walmer Gqeberha Township have brought calm to the area following the unrest that happened on Thursday. The unrest was primarily caused by the disconnection of illegal electricity connections by municipal electricity and energy officials in the shack dwelling areas of Walmer Gqeberha Township. The secondary issue the residents claimed was the poor communication from the Municipality in not informing the affected residents about the planned disconnections.
Led by the Portfolio Chairman for Electricity and Energy, Councillor Mfunda, the Municipality today at 8am called an urgent meeting with the community leaders and the senior Electricity and Energy Directorate officials to find solutions to the impasse. At the meeting it was agreed by both parties that the issue of communication by both parties, the community and the Municipality, had led to the unrest and had to be improved. Based on the discussions at the meeting, a common understanding between the Municipality and the community leaders was reached that illegal connections were wrong and needed to be dealt with.
The meeting also agreed that awareness campaigns about the dangers and unlawfulness of illegal connections needed to be intensified so that illegal connections would be prevented, eliminating the need for disconnections.
Following the meeting, Councillor Mfunda convened an urgent media briefing to update the members of the media about the latest developments. During the press briefing, Councillor Mfunda condemned the illegal electricity connections. He said: “As government we condemn the illegal connections as they pose a danger to people, especially children. They are also inconveniencing the law abiding citizens who pay for their own electricity. But having said that, we need to have creative ways of dealing with issues of this nature. We cannot as government just go and cut communities off, leaving them in the dark. There are issues of crime and basic human rights that we need to consider here”.
He called on communities across the city to work with the Municipality in dealing with illegal connections, as they cost the Municipality a lot of money. “This is costing us millions of rands that could have been channelled towards service delivery. This financial year alone this has cost us more than R90 million. This is one issue that needs to be agreed on with our communities: that it needs to be stopped. It is equally our responsibility to speed up service delivery so that our people can stay in houses with legal electricity connections, because the majority of them wish to connect legally, but the conditions do not allow them to do so,” said Councillor Mfunda.
He also called on the media to assist government in disseminating information about government programmes. “More cooperation and assistance from the media can assist us in dealing with issues like this and other service delivery related unrest”.
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