Illegal connections removed but Stoney Drift residents still in the dark

FORGOTTEN PEOPLE: The entrance to the Stoney Drift informal settlement, whose residents embarked on a protest against lack of service delivery last weekend
Picture: MATTHEW FIELD

Last month, the GO! & Express reported how Stoney Drift residents have had to put up with sewage leaks, high crime rates and dangerous illegal electricity connections that put their lives at risk on a daily basis.

Following our exposé, BCM suddenly found its feet and rushed to Stoney Drift to deal with the illegal connections, removing them and making the power lines tamper-proof.

However, this did not sit well with residents of the Stoney Drift informal settlement, who had been relying on the connections to provide them with their only source of electricity. The residents then embarked on a protest last Friday night which ended in the police being called and allegedly attacking protesters.

When the GO! first arrived on the scene, the protest was mostly over with the fire department cleaning up the remnants of attempts to burn down a telephone poll under the police’s watchful eye.

After exchanging tense words with the police, the protesters continued marching up Garth Street. However, they eventually dispersed without further incident.

One of the marchers, Esther Cawverley, said they were protesting against the lack of basic service delivery and years of neglect from the municipality.

“They said said they can’t build houses [where we live] but we have homes there. Our children are staying there with us so they must provide us with electricity and other services,” Cawverley said.

The GO! & Express met up with her again on Saturday morning, accompanied by DA councillors Vaughan Holmes and Bill Gould.

According to Cawverley, she first arrived at the Stoney Drift settlement in 1999. Since then, the community has been fighting with the municipality for recognition and access to basic services such as water and electricity.

Cawverley said that the municipality had promised them that the bush around their settlement would be cleared in 2016 but no action was taken.

“They’ve forgotten about us but they still want us to vote for them,” she said.

“The councillor [ward 9 councillor Mendi Wetsetse] only ever comes when there’s a disaster, otherwise we never see her.”

Cawverley also accused police of using excessive force during their protest on Friday night. One woman was allegedly beaten and maced while the police were also accused of drawing their firearms and threatening to fire on them with live ammunition.

“They wanted to shoot us,” she said.

The GO! & Express sent questions to councillor Mendi Wetsetse but at the time of publishing, no response had been received.

“We are angry and we want to be heard,” one resident said on condition of anonymity.

“We can go to court, we don’t care.”

Complicating the issue is a dangerous criminal element that continues to use the protest it as an excuse to harass and intimidate other residents.

In our October article, we spoke with someone who had been on the receiving end of multiple death threats after confronting the people illegally connecting in the area.

Last weekend we met with another resident who said they had been subject to similar tactics.

“They said ‘Don’t try and stop me [connecting illegally] because you’re at work the whole day, you have a wife here and a child, they’re alone here’.

“It’s a threat to my family,” the resident said.

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