Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) officers and police officers opened fire on Wednesday, using rubber bullets to disperse residents of Phumula Mqashi informal settlement, near Lenasia South.
They were protesting over the disconnection of illegally connected electricity in the area.
They barricaded streets, preventing vehicles from entering, and then began pelting the police with stones.
The police were forced to retaliate by firing rubber bullets.
A group of protesters also attempted to loot a nearby Shoprite supermarket, but the police, joined by soldiers, managed to contain the situation.
At that time, the protesters had brought down the part of the wall where goods are received – before being stopped.
Demonstrators then moved to the Golden Highway, where they blockaded the road with objects, but the police and JMPD officers managed to quickly disperse the crowd.
Thabo Ndlovu* said dwellers from the informal settlement were buying electricity from the neighbouring RDP houses in Vlakfontein.
“We pay about R200 monthly to owners of RDP houses in Vlakfontein. We are aware that it is illegal to steal electricity, but what can we do if we need electricity? Today, City Power officers caught us off guard.
“Usually, we receive a tip-off before they arrive, so we can remove our cables before being confiscated. We are pleading with government to provide us with prepaid electricity, so we can stop buying illegally connected power,” said Ndlovu.
Ndlovu said some power cables and wires were running on the ground, posing a danger to humans, especially young children.
City Power spokesperson Isaac Mangena said they cut off illegal connections in Vlakfontein and in Midrand to force people to pay for the electricity they use.
“We have seen an increase in unplanned outages because of overloading of our network. In Vlakfontein, we also cut off power from customers’ RDP houses that were selling power illegally to residents of Phumula Mqashi. A penalty of R11,000 has been imposed on the owners,” said Mangena.
Mangena said they had seen an increase of illegal connections in suburbs and well-off areas, where the City is losing millions.
“In Midrand, we cut off about 10 businesses and some townhouse complexes for bridging electricity meters, others with no meters, while some were illegally connected.
“Most of the tenants blamed their landlords for not paying for electricity, even after the tenants paid their monthly dues,” said Mangena.
*not his real name