Protesting Diepkloof residents hit out at Eskom over power cuts

They accuse the utility of making them the scapegoats for poor management of their infrastructure and said that they would continue demonstrating until electricity in the area had been restored.

A growing number of protesting residents are marching along major routes in Soweto on 10 December 2021, blocking traffic in all directions. Picture: @JoburgMPDTwitter

JOHANNESBURG - Eskom said that in the past eight months, the utility had lost about R96 million in Diepkloof, Soweto, alone since the installation of prepaid meters but residents said that they were not to blame.

They accuse the utility of making them the scapegoats for poor management of their infrastructure and said that they would continue demonstrating until electricity in the area had been restored.

Eskom said that the cut was a result of energy and revenue losses due to illegal connections, meter bypassing and customers buying from ghost vendors.

However, residents have protested against what they called the blanket punishment of all who reside there.

A Diepkloof resident said that Eskom did not install a meter in her family home, however, she has had to go without electricity for several weeks because Eskom was demanding that residents pay the R6,000 fine.

She said that Eskom bungled the meter installation programme.

"At my house, we don't have a meter. In 2018, Eskom came to my house and took out the old pre-paid meter and they said they would come back," she said.

The resident, who asked not to be named, said that with COVID numbers rising, they faced dangers far beyond criminals who took advantage of the darkness.

"For instance, people who don't work must now go to other houses to charge their phones and you don't know if the person in the other house has COVID or not," she said.

Meanwhile, Ivory Park residents, who have marched on Eskom’s headquarters on several occasions, said that they supported the plight of Diepkloof residents who had barricaded roads with burning tyres and rubble demanding that Eskom reconnect their electricty.

Diepklooof residents, who started their protest on Friday morning, have not backed down despite the presence of the police in the area.

They said that they were opposed to Eskom’s blanket punishment of residents, penalising even those who said that they did not have illegal connections and continued to pay their electricity bills.

But Eskom insists that residents must pay R6,000 to be reconnected.

Two weeks ago, Ivory Park residents blocked the entrance of Eskom’s Megawatt Park offices in Sunninghill, calling for the utility to restore power in the area which has been without electricity for nearly eight months.

Resident Alda Mosima said that the utility was holding them to ransom.

"Eskom is bringing us down as poor people because they know we can't afford to pay the R6,000," Mosima said.

Her sentiments were echoed by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in Gauteng who have issued a statement accusing Mayor Mpho Phalatse of discriminating against the poor in providing for the basic need of electricity.

One Diepkloof resident has also accused Eskom of poor communication.

"Eskom isn't saying anything they're just disconnecting our electricity at a certain time," the resident said.

Meanwhile, Eskom and the City of Joburg said that they were committed to finding strategies to address the Soweto electricity problem.

In a joint statement earlier this week, Eskom and Mayor Phalatse said that power would be restored in Diepkloof once the more than 700 customers who had received fines paid up.