In Summary
  • The issue: Electrocutions
  • Our view: A number of these deaths occur because of illegal connections that happen when people want to pay less or nothing for connecting electricity to their building.

It was a harrowing story to read. On March 3, three people were electrocuted when a housemaid touched a cloth that was on a washing line at their home.
The story with the headline ‘Pupils, maid electrocuted’, said Rosette, who was probably removing a cloth from the clothesline, was electrocuted, and Roselyn Ssimbwa, who tried to help her was electrocuted as well. Kevin Kito, Ssimbwa’s brother, who tried to help the two met his death the same way. In just seconds, a family lost the precious lives of two children and their maid.

The Old Kampala Division police commander, Ms Grace Nyangoma, said they are still trying to investigate the cause of the electrocution as it was too dark to carry out any investigations that evening. The Umeme spokesperson, Mr Steven Illungole, however, said their preliminary investigations showed that an illegal electricity connection “energised the metallic washing line”, which likely caused the deaths.

Last year, there were a number of articles run by Daily Monitor in which various people were injured or died of electrocution. These included eight people who were electrocuted in Rukungiri District while erecting a tent in preparation for a burial last December. The victims were electrocuted when one of the metallic poles on the tent got into contact with a live power cable. Two of them died.

In another incident, in Kamuli District, a child was electrocuted as it played near an exposed electric cable. Its mother run to its help after hearing the screams and she too was electrocuted.
A number of these deaths occur because of illegal connections that happen when people want to pay less or nothing for connecting electricity to their building. They, therefore, get an electrician or sometimes a person who passes off as one, to connect them to a source illegally. They pay the electrician and are happy that they had to pay only once to get electricity.

What they do not realise is that they are bound to pay a higher price than they would the normal and legal connection rates if someone else, perhaps even from their family, touches a live wire and is electrocuted. In 2016, Umeme, the national power distributor, said illegal power connections cost Shs106b up from Shs73 billion the previous year.
Umeme has held campaigns to crack down on illegal power thefts. They have also held awareness campaigns alerting the public to call their toll free lines should they see hanging wires, sparking wires or fallen electricity poles. Such campaigns should be carried out regularly to avoid people getting electrocuted.