Mhlengi Khumalo is gone


KENNEDY ROAD, DURBAN, 26 OCTOBER 2005 - Last Friday 16 shacks burnt down in the Kennedy Road informal settlement in Durban. A one year old boy, Mhlengi Khumalo, was very badly burnt and died on Saturday night. This was the third conflagration this month. The fire started when a candle was knocked over. Until 2001 pre-paid electricity meters were being installed in shacks. To get electricity you needed to pay R350 and to be able to represent your case in a certain way. According to S'bu Zikode from the Kennedy Road Development Committee "It all depended on who applied. If you seemed ignorant because you can't speak English you were just told to wait outside." The eThekwini Metro has since informed Kennedy Road residents that there is a "new policy not to install electricity in informal settlements".

Their electrification policy openly states the following:

5. Informal Settlements
In the past (1990s) electrification was rolled out to all and sundry. Because of the lack of funding and the huge costs required to relocate services when these settlements are upgraded or developed, electrification of the informal settlements has been discontinued.

More than 70 people with receipts for payments for installation have neither a refund nor electricity. If the installation of electricity to the settlement had not been halted these fires, and Mhlengi's death, could have been avoided. Pre-paid meters won't stop fires altogether though since many people can't afford to buy electricity on credit. The fires will stop when there is decent housing and free basic services for everyone.

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