What makes Soweto so special?

The City of Joburg and the ANC took special interest in Soweto following a power cut in the township on Friday amid pressure from communities who said that they were being penalised despite paying their bill.

Member of the mayoral committee (MMC) for Environment and Infrastructure Services at City of Joburg, Matshidiso Mfikoe told Talk Radio 702: “Friday is an unfortunate day for us – there are funerals, there are weddings, and other community activities (in Soweto).”

“So when you are phoning and not getting an answer…when you do not have anybody to say to you…we are having these problems, that is why load shedding is there to be extended…then of course we need to raise the alarm.”

“We just have to make sure that people are getting services and equally driving the message that people need to pay for those services.”

Mfikoe said that the council tried to get answers from Eskom before Saturday last week, without success.

“I should say that we had a meeting with Eskom yesterday (Monday), where they explained what happened on Friday as well as on Saturday morning, but we needed answers on Friday.”

The rest of the country has also suffered load shedding outages everyday this week, either in stage 1, or stage 2 which vary between two and four hour periods.

Eskom responds

Eskom said that the power outages in Soweto over the weekend were as a result of load shedding and subsequently overloading that caused a transformer to trip.

The township owes the electricity supplier as much as R8 billion, and has therefore Eskom has been trying to install prepaid meters in the face of rioting and outcry from community members – some of who have claimed to have never paid for electricity.

“They feel that Soweto was being punished by Eskom because of the stance they had taken against the installation of pre-paid meters, but also the fact that Soweto is owing us [Eskom] R4bn,” Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe told Fin24.

“But we would like to place it on record that we did not switch off electricity deliberately in Soweto,” he said. “What happened there was a result of two unrelated incidents.”

“On Friday, everyone across the country was experiencing stage 1 load shedding. During that time, we also had people [in Soweto] who had overloaded the system [with illegal electricity connections].”

Illegal connections cost Eskom about R2 billion per year in lost revenue, he said.

“Everyone [in the country] needs to move to pre-paid metering,” he said. “Whether you are an Eskom or municipal customer.

Soweto’s electrcity bill

When asked by Talk Radio 702 about Soweto’s electricity bill, Mfikoe said: “One thing is very clear…people must pay for services they are getting from any service provider, including Eskom, including the municipality.”

“That is very clear. We are not going to mince our words in relation to that.”

“There are people who are paying Eskom in Soweto,” Mfikoe stressed, adding that all residents were switched off.

“Why are we penalising people who are not paying as well as people who are paying for services?”

According to Eskom, the number of people paying for electricity amounts to as low as 16%.

Mfikoe said that, following a meeting in Soweto on Sunday evening, it was stressed that residents should pay there electricity bills, while the implementation of prepaid meters would not be halted, following disruptive protests against the system earlier in the month.

“We’ve put together a task team between Eskom and City Power that is going to look at other issues. The metering programme is going ahead, we are not going to negotiate that, because it’s a government programme.”

Eskom said on Tuesday that it will continue to install prepaid meters in the township and would not write off  R14-million in debt owed by residents for electricity.

The ANC, meanwhile, called on Eskom to hand Soweto back to the City of Johannesburg through City Power.

ANC regional spokesperson Jolidee Matongo said on Monday that it called on “Eskom to put its house in order and if it fails, we will have no option but to demand that it stop distributing power directly to residents.”

“It will have to supply the City of Joburg and it will in turn distribute to the people,” according to TimesLive.

There are about 5,000 households in Orlando West and, according to Stats SA, 99% of them are connected to electricity, a connection rate that is 10% higher than in the rest of Gauteng.

Reporting with News24 Wire.

More on Eskom and Soweto

ANC promised Soweto free electricity

Eskom price hike will drive up theft and non-payment

Soweto owes Eskom more than top 20 defaulting municipalities

Eskom’s massive Soweto headache

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What makes Soweto so special?