By Ruvesen Naidoo
Residents of Sun City informal settlement in Makhanda are terrified after dark because they have not one working street light, they told Grocott’s Mail. The problem also affects residents of Ghost Town, next to Sun City, and Hooggenoeg just up the hill as the areas are connected by a path of a few hundred metres that runs through an overgrown, bushy area.
Grocott’s Mail reported last week that, because of a long-term sewage leak running down the hill, many of the bushes have grown to a huge size. Workers have no option but to walk through the bushes at night and early in the morning to access the main road and residents say there has been a surge in criminal activities in the area.
There are several streetlights visible in Sun City. But none are working, residents said. Resident and local musician Regan Bruintjies says “If we have to go to town, we have to use this pathway and when there is load shedding, it becomes even darker.” He added that people have sadly started relying on the moonlight to light up the pathway. Bruintjies says that community meetings that have been ongoing with the ward councillor, but he is not aware of any solutions that have come about.
Bargo Peters, who uses the pathway regularly says that he is not afraid of the danger posed by the pathway at night. He pointed out that even without the streetlights, load shedding has made the area very dangerous. “We can’t sit here in darkness,” Peters says, adding that he expected the municipality to repair the broken street lights soon.
A young woman using the path told Grocott’s Mail that at night, residents use the lights of their cellphones to make their way up the hill but this is not enough light for them to notice criminals hiding in the bushes.
The Ward Committee leader of Ghost Town and Sun City, Nicola Arends told Grocott’s Mail, “It is very dark by the pathway during the night. People are getting killed, robbed, even raped”, adding that there have been two murders in the area, one of a policeman, and one rape case in which the accused was arrested. According to Arends, there has been recent cable theft from streetlights, and the darkness from load shedding at night makes theft easier.
During a recent ward committee meeting, Arends says that both these issues were noted. A complaint to the Makana Municipality has been lodged and residents are awaiting an update on the way forward.
Both Bruintjies and Arends mention that children sometimes aim slingshots at the streetlights, breaking the bulbs. Bruintjies encouraged parents to discipline their children because “The municipality is slow in responding to the matter when they know the reason behind why the streetlight bulbs are not working”, he said. However, even the street lights in the area without broken bulbs are also not working.
Nadia Elbrecht, resident of First Avenue in Hooggenoeg, says that recently while walking home, her son was a victim of theft, and his phone was stolen at night. Elbrecht says that when the phone was eventually tracked down, it was found amongst the bushes where the pathway that has no streetlights starts. Elbrecht says “They need to go into those bushes and see what is going on in there because it is not safe. Now with a few working streetlights, the roads have become very dangerous to use during the night,” referring to just two streetlights that are working on First Avenue, where the path begins.
Grocotts Mail remains in contact with community leader, Nicola Arends, about the provision of electricity boxes to unelectrified homes in Sun City and repairs of the streetlights and will publish a follow-up story once an update is received.