/ 23 May 2023

Nelson Mandela Bay mayor suspects cable theft was ‘an act of sabotage’

Nelson Mandela Bay
About 300 people from wards 46 and 47 blocked the busy Matanzima Road near KwaNobuhle on Monday. Their electricity had been off since Friday after cables were stolen in the area. Photos: Thamsanqa Mbovane

Protests erupted in parts of the Nelson Mandela Bay on Monday afternoon after about 50 000 residents had been left without electricity since Friday because of cable theft. The power was restored late on Monday night.

Mayor Retief Odendaal announced a reward of R20 000 for information that leads to the arrest of cable thieves.

Odendaal said he had “a strong suspicion” that the theft of cables was “an act of sabotage”.

“The reason for such suspicion is the fact that only a small section of the cables has been removed at a very strategic place, done in a way to cause six wards in the KwaNobuhle to be left without electricity,” he said.

At about 5pm on Monday, about 300 people from wards 46 and 47 blocked the busy Matanzima Road with vehicles and burning tyres. Some people were seen pelting passing police vans and a fire truck with stones and shouting: “Go away! When our houses are on fire, you arrive only when they are in ashes.”

Ward 46 councillor Ntobeko Nqakula (ANC) arrived and told the crowd, “We had about 14 meetings in my ward this year, but you never raised the issue of electricity. We should be patient.”

Siyabonga Stemele, a resident from Area 11 informal settlement in Gunguluza, said, “We need to propose that metro police be visible at scrap yards across the city. Whoever is found with stolen cables, the law should take its course.”

An artisan on site where the cables were stolen said four feeder cables were damaged and estimated the repair cost to be R450 000.

Lance Grootboom, the mayoral committee member for electricity and energy, said, “We are concerned that in the last seven days the municipality has seen 23 major electricity substation outages. The latest vandalism affected six wards in the KwaNobuhle cluster.”

Grootboom said he has requested a detailed report on all the recent outages. “I specifically requested that if instances of a lack of maintenance or sabotage are discovered that strict accountability and action be taken against any persons implicated.”

This article was first published on GroundUp