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‘There’s no living here, only suffering’: Orange Farm community on power issues

Orange Farm has become notorious for illegal electricity connections, faulty transformers and blacked-out streets, with several areas having no power for months, while others have been in the dark for over a year.

FILE: Eskom technicians remove illegal electricity connections. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

JOHANNESBURG – After more than a year without electricity, some residents in the Orange Farm community have finally been reconnected as Eskom makes headway in clearing its backlog.

The township – based in the south of Johannesburg – became notorious for illegal electricity connections, faulty transformers and blacked-out streets, with several areas having no power for months, while others have been in the dark for over a year.

The existing vulnerabilities have been amplified during the COVID-19 lockdown, with food rotting in fridges, businesses going under, students studying by candlelight and crime on the rise.

ALSO READ: 'We don’t matter': Orange Farm residents detail struggles of life without power

The COVID-19 lockdown didn’t hold water with many residents in the Drieziek community of Orange Farm.

They say it was impossible to adhere to the regulations following months without power.

Seventy-one-year old Molebogeng Masitenyane said she spent her days outside in sun as the cold in her two-bedroom home worsens her arthritis - leaving the diabetic at risk of contracting the virus.

“It doesn’t matter if you buy electricity or not, there are always power cuts. The house is cold and unwelcoming. Our food rots in the fridge. 2020 has been challenging and the constant power cuts have made it worse. There’s no living here, only suffering,” said Masitenyane.

Small business owner Simon Khumalo sells and repairs vehicle parts in the area.

Not only has his business suffered during the pandemic, but he said the lack of power has made it nearly impossible to recover.

“We have huge issues with electricity in this area because it affects our business and our livelihood. With the lockdown affecting our services, as soon as we start working, there are power cuts, and then customers leave because they are frustrated,” said Khumalo.

A short distance away, some residents of Extension 3B – who opened their homes to Eyewitness News three months ago after spending more than a year in darkness - said Eskom had finally replaced their blown transformers.

While it took the power utility more than a year, Eskom has removed illegal connections and fined those who tampered with their connection.

“It is important for Eskom and the community members to collectively work together because without the collaboration, it makes it really difficult and we are thankful that we were eventually able to find each other,” said Eskom’s Reneiloe Semenya.

Eskom said while it was aware of the backlog to restore power to its customers, it had faced resistance from the community with its technicians often chased out of the area.

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