WATCH | ‘Armed’ With Coffee And Blankets, Khayelitsha Residents Protect Eskom Employees From Extortionists

‘Armed’ With Coffee And Blankets, Khayelitsha Residents Protect Eskom Employees From Extortionists..  Last Thursday, Khayelitsha Site B residents came out in numbers to guard Eskom employees who were repairing a transformer after it exploded that morning.

Armed With Coffee And Blankets, Khayelitsha Residents Protect Eskom Employees From Extortionists

Babalwa Mabuya, who has been living in Site BW Section for more than 25 years, said crime has increased in the area with gangsters asking for “protection fees” from Eskom employees when they repair broken infrastructure.

By the time Eskom employees arrived in the area, Mabuya and her five friends had gathered the community to offer protection.

“When the Eskom employees told us they fear for their safety, we told them not to worry as we would protect them and we continued gathering more community members using a loud hailer. Everyone participated. Those with gas stoves boiled water and made coffee for everyone and the Somalian shopkeepers provided bread and cold drinks,” she said.

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Eskom employees have come under attack from alleged gangsters who demand protection fees while they repair critical infrastructure.

“The community members had no weapons. They used their bodies as shields and protected Eskom employees until 11pm,” said ward 90 councillor Lukhanyo Simangweni.

Site BW Section resident Emihle Mgqwebo captured the events on her cellphone, showing residents sitting in the street draped with blankets and drinking coffee while Eskom employees are fixing the transformer.

“I took these videos because I wanted to show people you can stand up and unite to fight back against the gangsters who make our lives hell,” said Mgqwebo.

In July, Eskom withdrew services from a nearby suburb, Harare in Khayelitsha, with immediate effect after workers were asked to pay a protection fee of R20,000 by alleged gangsters. Eskom said their workers were approached by gangsters who demanded a protection fee of R20,000 a month.

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Acting general manager Mbulelo Yedwa said the decision to pull workers out of the area was made to protect their employees  while discussions are held with community leaders and business forums to find solutions to resolve the matter.

“The safety of our employees cannot be compromised and Eskom has withdrawn services from Harare until community leaders and police can guarantee it is safe to return.

“We have also been made aware there’s a syndicate illegally connecting residents to electricity for R1,500 per household. These activities are what is severely straining our network, especially during peak times when transformers are overloaded,” Yedwa said.

A Harare resident said alleged gangsters demand R300 per home for electricity security.

“They ask residents to come forward and report those who are not compliant.”

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Simangweni said crime is bad in their area.

“Crime is worse in our community in ward 90 because a huge number of youth are not working. As you can see, they are around the corner. They embark on criminality and when they see someone else making money because of crime, those people become role models for them,” he said.

“If government can provide skills and employment for the youth in our areas, I think that can reduce the level of crime.”

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