Issued George Municipality, 26 JANUARY 2022
The Executive Mayor of George, Leon van Wyk wishes to extend his heartfelt condolences to the family of a 4-year-old toddler who was electrocuted by an energised fence in Thembalethu over the past weekend, in an incident that is attached to an ‘illegal connection’ at her home on Saturday afternoon. Simultaneously, Mayor van Wyk issued a stern warning to the citizens of George to refrain from the installation of illegal connections as it poses a fatal danger to society.
Ophayo Tukushe sadly lost his life on Saturday afternoon, 22 January 2022 after she got electrocuted while playing at her Thembalethu home. The information available at this stage indicates that Ophayo touched an energised fence that ran past her home to nearby informal settlements.
“I am deeply saddened by this tragedy; words cannot describe how sad I am for the loss of this toddler. Her future has been stolen from her, I cannot imagine the pain Ophayo’s parents and loved ones must be undergoing. May the family of Ophayo be comforted during this very difficult time,” said Mayor van Wyk.
The latest information relating to the incident indicates that on the next day, (Sunday, 23 January 2022), Nolundi Tukushe the grieving mother of late Ophayo was also electrocuted by the same energised fence that ran past her property while hanging washing. She, fortunately, survived the incident.
The Municipal Electro-Technical Services Department indicated that they were only informed about the two incidents in the aftermath on Sunday morning. The Municipal electro-technical department confirms that the energised fence from which the child got electrocuted was an illegal connection and which was safely removed.
The South African Police Service (SAPS) has subsequently launched an inquiry investigation to ascertain circumstances surrounding the death of Ophayo and his mother’s incident.
“We cannot overemphasize the dangers attached to illegal connections. Any kind of electricity ‘tapping’, no matter how small or innocent-looking, is illegal and dangerous and can cause much more trouble than you know,” Mayor van Wyk said.
“As it was with this incident, the sad part is that children are more likely to be in danger; they can easily be killed, due to their lower weight, because of illegal connections not having earth leakage protection. We ask that law-abiding citizens take it upon themselves to report illegal connection activities to SAPS as soon as they see them taking place,” van Wyk added.
To educate the communities and increase community safety, the Electro-Technical Department conducts regular safety operations targeted at removing illegal connections. The latest operation in this specific area was done on Thursday, 20 January 2022.
George Municipality will continue to act decisively in such matters, and it is well-known that the practice of illegal connection puts the perpetrator in danger of electrocution, risking injury and death to themselves as well as the rest of the community. These connections lie across pathways and walkways where anyone passing can easily be electrocuted.
An electricity connection is considered illegal when it is connected to the George Municipal network without the organisation’s permission. Wires are connected to a mini-substation or overhead pole. The forms of electricity theft include illegal connections, illegal electrification schemes and meter tampering and bypassing. These illegal electrical thefts are mostly in areas where illegal informal structures are built.
Where people have connected themselves illegally, George Municipality will continue to actively find the perpetrators and lay criminal charges against them. In terms of the Criminal Procedures Act, interference with and the damage to Municipal property could be regarded as sabotage and should someone be found guilty of such an offence, a maximum term of imprisonment of 30 years can follow.
Illegal connections should be reported to 044 803 9222 or 044 801 9222 or after hours on 044 801 6300.
The George Municipality offers a reward for information that leads to the successful conviction of electrical theft and /vandalism in a court of law. The witness will have to go on record to the authorities, giving his/her name and contact details to testify, but his/her identity will be protected. Report to 0860 044 044