Gauteng is facing a provincial shutdown as thousands of protesters take to the streets demanding free electricity, housing and land.
Key to the demands is the issue of free electricity, with Soweto residents arguing that Eskom does not have a right to cut off power to the township due to non-payment.
Households across South Africa owe Eskom around R40 billion in unpaid bills – but it’s Soweto, with its 1.3 million residents, that accounts for the biggest chunk.
Speaking in an interview with Cape Talk, Soweto Electricity Crisis committee member Trevor Ngwane said that Eskom is using ‘bullying tactics’ against working-class communities by using load shedding as a ‘scapegoat against the poor’.
He added that low-paying communities such as Soweto were being treated unfairly by the power utility.
“To be honest in Soweto more are not paying than those who are paying,” he said. “However, it’s not that they are not paying but they cannot keep up with the high tariffs in the country.
“The difference between us and the rest of the country is that we are fighting (the issue), we are defending our grannies and defending the vulnerable.”
Ngwane said that pensioners should be spending their money on their grandchildren and their own needs, but are being forced to make a choice between electricity and putting food on the table.
He said that Eskom used these vulnerable people as a ‘scapegoat’ for non-payment despite the fact they cannot afford to pay.
When pushed as to why Soweto residents don’t pay while the rest of the country does, Ngwane said it’s because the township’s residents have ‘fighting spirit’.
“They won’t allow themselves to be bullied. If you don’t fight they will trample on you.
“Electricity and water are basic necessities which every human being should have access to. Electricity is produced by the workers – they pay twice as they pay with labour and they pay with cash.
“You only pay with your cash because you are middle-class and bourgeois.”