GROUNDUP SERVICE DELIVERY
Teenager becomes latest electrocution victim of Gqeberha river
Illegal connections spread across the Chatty River to the Govan Mbeki township have electrocuted Kliprand informal settlement residents.
About 200 Kliprand residents blocked Old Uitenhage Road in Gqeberha with burning tyres, rubbish and rocks on Monday, demanding their shack electrification project be completed.
This follows the tragic death of 17-year-old Erris Jonkers who was electrocuted while checking the live wire connections that spread over the Chatty River near his home in Kliprand informal settlement on Saturday. Residents say the river has a few live wires from illegal connections from the Govan Mbeki township.
Erris’s aunt Martha Tiervlei told GroundUp that his mother had sent him to check why their power was off on Saturday. “He put on his fisherman attire, gumboots and also took his pliers.”
She said they were aghast when community members called them to the small river on Sunday morning. “He was still in the river with a live wire, still burning, next to him,” she said.
When we spoke to his grandmother, Sofie Jonkers, she cried uncontrollably as she spoke about her grandson. “I’m heartbroken. I still can’t believe my lovely grandson is dead. He spent the entire week at my house in Missionvale cleaning my yard.
“If this electrification project had been completed, my grandson would still be alive.”
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Erris is the second person to be electrocuted in the river this month. About 500 metres away the body of an unknown man was discovered by two boys playing soccer in an open field. Residents say that two months prior, Leonick May, 7, survived an electric shock at the same spot where Erris died.
On Monday, residents, mostly women and children, protested, hoping to raise the alarm about the dangerous conditions. They want the government to build a pedestrian bridge for people to cross the river safely. People say they frequently have to cross the river to get to the clinic, shops and school.
According to residents, a project to install electricity in about 380 households has been delayed. On 22 June, the community staged a protest saying the project had been delayed for eight months.
Geraldine May said it pains her to see her granddaughter, Leonick, still suffering from the wounds she got when she was electrocuted while crossing the river. May said Leonick has had to stay out of school as she is still getting treatment and is in a lot of pain.
Charlene Jonas community leader said Erris’s death was a sad reminder that their previous pleas had fallen on deaf ears. “This municipality does not care about people’s lives. The contractor works about two weeks per month.
“Erris was this community’s handyman. His death is a big loss for this community. We want this municipality to take full responsibility for all these tragic incidents,” she said.
Ward 33 Councillor Mzwandile Sidina said that the electrification project could be completed by September. “We had a few delays with the installation of electric boxes. We were short of material to connect to the substation in the area. But the contractor is busy on site. By next month electricity will be switched on.”
Sidina said the office of the mayor is aware of the community’s request for a pedestrian bridge and has promised to take this matter up with the roads and transport department. DM
First published by GroundUp.