Delft landlords fight as power outages drive out tenants


Bukelwa Wanyaza saved for years on his salary as a pump attendant to build four small rental apartments in Delft. While business was once booming, it lost tenants due to frequent blackouts. (Photo: Vincent Lali)

  • Owners in Delft, Cape Town, attribute frequent power cuts in the area to illegal electrical connections by residents of informal settlement Tsunami.
  • They say interruptions in the electricity supply are driving tenants away.
  • Eskom claims illegal power connections and vandalism in Delft have cost him around R10 million since April.

Eskom loses around 1.3 million rand per month due to illegal connections and vandalism in Delft, Cape Town, spokesman Kyle Cookson said. Since April, Eskom had lost R10 million.

GroundUp spoke to landlords and landlords in the township who blamed the frequent power cuts on illegal electrical connections by residents of the informal Tsunami settlement.

They said interruptions in the electricity supply were driving tenants away.

Residents of houses near the informal settlement said they complained about the increasing number of izinyoka connections since November 2018.

These connections were made directly to transformers and streetlights and blew up electrical boxes in neighboring houses, they said.

READ | Gauteng boy, 11, killed after stepping on loose wires of illegal electrical connection

Bukelwa Wanyaza said he spent years saving his salary as a gas station attendant in Belhar to build four small rental apartments in Delft. Wanyaza said she completed construction of two apartments in 2009. As business exploded, she built two more units in 2014, which she rented for R 900 per unit per month.

“After the illegal hook-ups damaged my electrical boxes, two of the six families moved,” she said, as they had no electricity. In an effort to retain her remaining tenants, she installed a gas stove in one of her vacant apartments so that all tenants could cook and boil water.

Wanyaza said she was drowning in debt and relied mainly on family allowances for her children.

She was sending money to help her family in the Eastern Cape, but could no longer do so.

She said:

I have no money to send my four year old daughter to nursery. I was building a house in the Eastern Cape before my electrical boxes exploded. I don’t have the money to finish the roof.

Bongiwe Damba rents two cabins at R450 each per month and a shipping container that belonged to his late mother, at R800. When the electricity problems started, Damba was forced to reduce her rental fee to R300 per month. Now the tire repair company that rented the container and the tenants of the garden sheds are gone.

“I can’t rent the cabins to earn money to feed my children because I don’t have access to electricity.”

Community leader Nosicelo Bobi said: “Most of the landlords borrowed money from banks in the hope of using the rent money to pay off their debts. Now they can no longer repay their debts.

READ ALSO | Eight people arrested, two electrocuted as Gauteng faces scourge of electrical crime

Bobi said criminals are now entering and ransacking the vacant spaces.

Provincial human settlements spokesman Muneera Allie said the department was in talks to relocate around 200 families from the tsunami. Land near informal settlements had been identified “with the intention of developing transitional units”.

“The department has had to deal with budget cuts due to the pandemic. At this point, there are no funds available for both the resettlement area and the development of the informal Tsunami settlement. The Tsunami upgrade will begin as soon as project funding becomes available, ”Allie said.

Kwanele Mcaleni, a community leader in the tsunami, said the services were urgently needed.

“The housing department does not have to build us temporary houses before it develops the tsunami. We will move with our huts and stay there until the development is complete,” he said.

Mcaleni said residents threatened to protest if there were further government delays in developing Tsunami.

Nikiswa Cengimbo, a resident of the tsunami, agreed that the illegal connections were dangerous and had cost the residents of the huts their homes and sometimes their lives in the fires.

But, she said, “most of us are unemployed and depend on our children’s grants to survive, so we are fighting for money to buy paraffin.”

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