Massive Gauteng shutdown over unpaid electricity

Parts of Gauteng are expected to come to a standstill on Tuesday (25 February) as thousands of protesters take to the streets demanding free electricity, housing and land.

Residents from Soweto, Alexandra, Tembisa, and a number of other notable townships are expected to participate in the shutdown, with a heavy police presence also expected to help control the protests.

“Officers will be deployed and we will work with other law enforcement agencies,” Johannesburg Metro Police Department spokesperson Wayne Minnaar told News24. “We will deal with it as it unfolds.”

Minnaar said that the provincial and national traffic police would also be involved in helping control the protests.

On Sunday, the Soweto electricity crisis committee said that it was planning to shut down the township during the State of the Province Address and the national Budget Speech this week.

The group is challenging the township’s R18 billion electricity bill from Eskom as well as the threat of electricity cut-offs.

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.

Non-payment in the city is endemic, with illegal connections a common feature.

In an open letter published at the end of October 2019, Ramaphosa said that Eskom is also owed huge amounts of money by individual users and that a culture of non-payment exists in several parts of the country.

“Boycotting payment for services had a place in apartheid, South Africa. It was an effective tool to mobilise communities against an unjust system.

“But it has no place in present-day South Africa. If public utilities like Eskom are to survive, then all users need to pay for the services they receive,” the president said.

Read: Eskom to take power units off the grid for 75 days at a time: report

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Massive Gauteng shutdown over unpaid electricity