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Theft, vandalism of power infrastructure costs Joburg more than R300 million: Mashaba

City of Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba has stated that theft and vandalism of power infrastructure has cost the city more than R300 million according to News24.

This is turning delivering service delivery into a Sisyphean task – every time the infrastructure gets put in, some idiot breaks it or steals it.

Mashaba highlighted issues with illegal connections – but also how valuable equipment was getting stolen from substations.

Earlier this month IOL reported that Mashaba had called upon the public’s help in finding the armed robbers who struck a substation in Mulbarton, south of Johannesburg.

The substation at the time was undergoing an upgrade, which was no doubt slowed by having its security guards tied up and equipment stolen.

Apparently the six robbers had come with a truck, and made off with a 500 metre drum of cable, and 5 x 75m copper cables.

While the thieves were loading this stuff on their truck an electrician arrived to figure out what was causing the local power outage – and got tied up along with the guards.

Just a few days before the IOL report, TimesLIVE reported that power poles were struck down in  Unaville informal settlement‚ Lenasia South.

City Power said that they weren’t sure why this was done, but they think it was retaliation after the settlements illegal connections were cut off in order to supply power to the people who were actually paying for it.

The major problem with the illegal connections is in part that the people connecting to the grid don’t really know what they’re doing.

The poor quality connections they use end up tripping the substations – blacking out the entire area.

“Most of the current transformers supplying the area are new as the old ones had failed prematurely due to illegal connections. Restoring power to the area has proved to be a futile exercise because as soon as it is back on‚ it trips again on overload.”

My Take

Yesterday I got into an argument with somebody over corporal punishment, in which I pointed out that research repeatedly found it led to undesirable outcomes.

One of the people I was arguing with claimed that if this was the case, we’d see a whole generation of delinquents.

Cough, cough.

The thing is that in South Africa criminality is rife, we do in fact have several generations of delinquents all grown up and making it incredibly difficult to sort out our problems.

Take former president Jacob Zuma, in 2006 he said the following according to News24: “When I was growing up an ungqingili (a gay) would not have stood in front of me. I would knock him out.”

Now at the time the issue raised was his homophobia, but think about this, what do you call a kid (because remember this is when he was growing up) that knocks people out?

A delinquent. And that delinquent child grew up to be a delinquent president, are we honestly going to argue that we don’t have a generation of delinquents when the figure they voted for as their supreme representative in government was a delinquent?

And that problem extends beyond politics. Whether we’re talking about cable thieves or robbers who target tourists – a major impediment to anything getting better in this country is our high rate of adult delinquency.

That adult delinquency is not just creating issues like the one in Joburg with infrastructure – we see it in the next generation because whatever the law says is what the law says, not what actually happens.

We could ban spanking, and it is probably the correct course the research on it is pretty unequivocal that it does more harm than good, but does that mean parents won’t spank their kids?

We can’t even stop it happening in our schools. We as adults expect the next generation to respect rules we personally don’t follow.

You cannot expect a generation of delinquents to follow the rules just because they’re the rules.

So what can we do? We can only change our own behaviours, we cannot expect others to change for us. We have to take personal responsibility for the way we act, and allow that to inspire others to act better.

Victory over our internal delinquency will not be achieved through externally imposed discipline, but by making it clear that it pays to be good. We have to genuinely try to convince each other that this is the better path, because the threats just aren’t working.

Picture courtesy of Willie at Pixabay.

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