Soweto residents snub Eskom, say ANC promised free electricity

While some residents said they can't afford to pay others have simply refused and have opted to instead make arrangements for illegal connections.

Picture: Pexels.

JOHANNESBURG - Eskom said if Soweto residents allowed electricians to do their work, the utility would be in a better financial position.

While some residents said they can't afford to pay, others have simply refused and have opted to instead make arrangements for illegal connections.

The state-owned company is owed more than R17 billion in Soweto alone.

"For as long as Eskom uses coal, I won’t pay, there is politics behind it," resident Cleopatra Shezi, who doesn’t pay for electricity, said.

She has a brand new prepaid meter box which has still not been installed because she refuses.

Shezi is one of many residents who won’t commit to paying because, in its inaugural election campaign, the African National Congress promised them free electricity amongst other basic services.

"I can’t afford to pay unless they connect us to the solar system grid."

By contrast her, neighbours are also battling to make ends meet – but try to keep up with the payments

Thabo Mofokeng said it’s been a struggle: "We live like rats, we have to do everything in the dark."

Mofokeng said despite the challenges, his family will not go the illegal route.

WATCH: Soweto Vs Eskom: War between Eskom and Soweto residents continues

In a bid to minimise illegal power connections, Eskom plans to ramp up the installation of split prepaid meters in the township.

Eskom's maintenance and operations senior manager Daphne Mokwena said installing more split prepaid meters will prevent residents from tampering with cables.

These meters are installed outside the houses and give electricians unrestricted access for readings and monitoring usage.

“And it’s a prepaid meter, hence the customer can manage his or her consumption.”

Mokwena says switching off power is not a straight forward decision as it affects communities.

“Because we will be affecting paying customers as well and we have to go house-to-house.”

Eskom remains in a tight spot with billions more owed to it by municipalities across the country, but the company’s efforts to recover the much-needed money are often hindered by red tape.

(Edited by Mihlali Ntsabo)