Despite a decrease in reports of gang-related violence, city workers are hesitant to work in the Hanover Park area after crews repairing lighting were threatened with weapons and equipment was stolen off a truck on 22 March.
Charles Kadalie, spokesperson for the city's Electrical Department, confirms the incident and says that it is proving problematic to carry out repairs.
"My job as a manager is to ensure the safety of the staff. This type of crime usually happens in areas where vandalism and cable theft occur because elements want the area in darkness to do their illegal things," says Kadalie.
...climbing onto trucks and forcing workers to leave the area by threatening their lives...
He says these "elements" have been climbing onto trucks and forcing workers to leave the area by threatening their lives with weapons. He says bigger trucks are targeted, as they carry more equipment to steal.
"It is problematic to have staff in these areas, especially when they have to work on a cherry picker (hydraulic aerial work platform) fixing the cables and lighting up. They are half expecting a bullet up there because they feel exposed. If you are not safe in an area, you cannot work there," he says.
Kadalie adds that it is difficult to have police and security personnel accompany them. "We are all under staff constraints and they are not as rapidly available as they formerly were," says Kadalie.
The security of these people needs to be upgraded so that they can come into the area and not be afraid...
The ward councillor for Hanover Park, Kenneth Lategan, says the incidents are often not reported to the police because the workers feel they will be victimised. He also promises to look into the matter. "The security of these people needs to be upgraded so that they can come into the area and not be afraid of the criminal elements," says Lategan.
Kadalie, however, says the incidents are reported to the police and are not only confined to Hanover Park. Similar incidents have occurred in Lotus River and Bontheuwel recently, where cable theft is also rife. "This is an added expense for us. When cables are stolen, we need to send our mechanical people in. We have huge areas to cover and cannot cope with the demands," says Kadalie.
... appeals to members of the community to look out for criminal elements stealing and says they should report matters to the authorities.
Kadalie says they are looking at welding shut access openings on the poles to prevent theft and vandalism. He adds that when workers are pulled from these areas, it does not mean that they are not working. "They are deployed to other areas because there are demands every where," he says.
Lategan says he has raised the safety issue with Human Resources at a recent portfolio committee meeting. Lategan appeals to members of the community to look out for criminal elements stealing and says they should report matters to the authorities. Kadalie says some workers have since returned to Hanover Park but are still fearful.
People are asked to report cable theft to the city's Electrical Department. Call them on on the toll-free number 0860 125 001/2/3/4.