Toddler killed by illegal connection

According to reports, the four-year-old touched an energised fence that ran past the family’s home to nearby informal settlements.

 Making illegal connections poses a fatal danger.

GEORGE – A four-year-old toddler, Ophayo Tukushe, was electrocuted by an electrified fence while playing at her home in Thembalethu last Saturday, 22 January. The incident relates to an illegal electrical connection at the child’s home.

Mayor Leon van Wyk extended his heartfelt condolences to the family and issued a stern warning to all citizens to refrain from installing illegal connections as they pose a fatal danger.

At this stage reports indicates that Ophayo touched an energised fence that ran past the family’s 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,” said Van Wyk. “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.”

The grieving mother of late Ophayo, Nolundi Tukushe, was also shocked by the same energised fence that ran past her property while hanging washing the very next day, on Sunday January 23. She survived the incident.

The municipal electrotechnical services department was only informed about the two incidents in the aftermath on Sunday morning. The fence in question and illegal connections have since been removed.

The police have subsequently launched an inquiry investigation to ascertain circumstances surrounding the death of Ophayo and her mother’s incident.

“We cannot overemphasise 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,” said Van Wyk.

“The sad part is that children are more likely to be in danger; they can easily be killed due to their smaller 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 the police as soon as they see them taking place.”

Education

To educate the communities and increase community safety, the electrotechnical department conducts regular safety operations to remove illegal connections. The latest operation in this specific area was done on Thursday January 20.

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 any passing person can easily be electrocuted.

An electricity connection is considered illegal when it is connected to the George Municipal network without the municipality’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.

Reward

George Municipality offers a reward for information that leads to the successful conviction of electrical theft and/or 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.

An example of illegal connections in a township.

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