High streetlight vandalism incidents in ‘Plain

Street lights on during the day and off at night. Pictures: Mujahid Safodien and Neo Ntsoma

Mitchell’s Plain has recorded a third of electricity infrastructure vandalism incidents reported in a metro district of the City of Cape Town.

In March alone, 101 incidents were recorded with Area North with 30 incidents happening in Mitchell’s Plain – being the worst affected.

A total of 64 incidents were recorded during the first quarter of the year, between January and March; and Beacon Valley, Lentegeur, Rocklands and Tafelsig have been flagged as hotspot areas.

Mayoral committee member for energy Beverley van Reenen said that the City was dealing with a high volume of streetlight repair service requests and the situation was worsened by constant load-shedding and weather-related requests.

The City energy directorate’s plan to deal with outstanding streetlight repairs caused primarily by vandalism in the Mitchell’s Plain area is making steady progress.

More than 350 electricity infrastructure vandalism incidents have been recorded across the metro during the first quarter of the year.

“In recent weeks, due to non-stop Eskom’s load-shedding at higher stages, more incidents of infrastructure vandalism have taken place under the cover of darkness.

Streetlight damaged on AZ Berman Drive.

“In many instances where streetlight control boxes or kiosks are damaged, a number of streetlights are often impacted. Where severe theft and vandalism has taken place, turnaround times are often delayed due to the nature of the required repairs,” she said.

Norman Jantjes, Mitchell’s Plain Community Police Forum (CPF) chairman, appealed to ward councillors to work closely with all Mitchell’s Plain ratepayers and residents.

“A more united community will be more effective in fighting crime and vandalism

“We as the CPF, sub forums, SAPS and the neighbourhood watch are ready to play our part,” he said.

Mr Jantjes encouraged member organisations and the broader community through public meetings and imbizos to report crime, including vandalism.

“We furthermore explain to them its impact on safety and that we as ratepayers ultimately foot the bill of repairs,” he said.

He called on ongoing community education and meaningful public participation.

“We agree on the reward system as it will further incentivise people to report acts of vandalism. This however needs to be extensively advertised.

“We also need more boots on the ground, that is additional law enforcement officers as well as the deployment of more neighbourhood watch members,” he said.

Mr Jantjes said that a more rapid response was needed from law enforcement agencies to catch perpetrators red handed.

Mitchell’s Plain United Residents’ Association (MURA) deputy chairman Michael Jacobs said they condemned vandalism of any kind.

“On a local level we call for an infrastructure stakeholders forum, comprising, of the City, SAPS, law enforcement and relevant parties that will meet on a regular basis to deal pro-actively with the scourge of cable theft and vandalism. The City also need to look at overhead wiring to minimise vandalism of cables,” he said. target, create opportunities for criminals to act with impunity. On a local level we call for an infrastructure stakeholders forum, comprising, of the City, SAPS, Law Enforcement and relevant parties that will meet on a regular basis to deal proactively with the scourge of cable theft and vandalism. The City also need to look at overhead wiring to minimise vandalism of cables.

MURA also called for more punitive sanctions through laws to guard against vandalism and theft of infrastructure.

The nature and extent of the vandalism should invoke the introduction of a minimum sentence of 30 years.

“The community should report all acts of vandalism and theft to the relevant law enforcement agencies and not buy these stolen items,” he said.

Avron Plaatjies, councillor for Ward 76 including Ikwezi Park, Mandalay and parts of Lentegeur, said damage to public infrastructure significantly inconvenienced residents.

“I urge residents to constantly protect our public infrastructure, particularly during load shedding.

“The general public can form street committees to protect public infrastructure,” he said.

Danny Christians, ward councillor for parts of Portland, Rocklands and Strandfontein, re-emphasised that a high culture of vandalism exists in the community.

“All of the City’s assets remain a lucrative target for vandals – be it cable theft, brick stealing, non-ferrous and ferrous fencing, stealing of drain covers and ferrous water meters and cutting down of electrical poles,” he said.

Mr Christians said that it was difficult civil society to report vandals.

“A high level of fear and reprisals by these vandals has made the community not to report them to the authorities.

“Currently, members of the Rocklands Neighbourhood Watch and myself are awaiting a court date for apprehending cable thieves. These cable thieves were profiled by SAPS and are awaiting trial,” he said.

He said that a great deal of vandalism hinged on the high unemployment rate that fuelled the current social evils in Mitchell’s Plain.

He said he has made proposals to the City’s budget to enhance the security of City assets.

Wolfgat subcouncil chairman Solomon Philander, and councillor for Ward 116 in Beacon Valley and Eastridge, said there were streetlights in all of Mitchell’s Plain’s main roads and street within the area however the infrastructure was hard hit by vandalism, which has caused residents to feel unsafe.

“Dark streets create opportunities for crime to thrive especially where working people walk to and from public transport routes. In additional to this we have many patients that have to go to health care centres for their scheduled appointments,“ he said.

Mr Philander said residents were forced to walk in darkness as they travel to and from work and felt unsafe.

“They are subjected to being robbed from their personal possession and assaulted,” he said. “The electricity department has been repairing the same infrastructure over and over due to vandalism. The current plan from the perpetrators of vandalism to our infrastructure is hitting the control boxes leaving the community in dark for days if not weeks. In order for the lights to stay on the department we need the community to protect the infrastructure as the cost of repairs is high and the money could have been used for other development,” he said.

He explained the community’s silence about vandalism perpetrators affected the greater community.

“Many of our community want to work together with government but it is the very small group that want to destroy all the hard work and existing infrastructure. This cannot be allowed. I want to say thank you to the community who is already taking action by reporting matters,” he said.

  • To report damage to municipal electrical infrastructure SMS 31220; email power@capetown.gov.za; anonymous tip-offs are welcome and includes a reward of R5 000 if they lead to arrests; or call 080 011 0077.