Residents and Eskom clash far from over

RESIDENTS of Tshiawelo in Soweto have been waging a war against Eskom over the installation of prepaid electricity meters for the past two years - and the battle is unlikely to end soon.

They have marched on Eskom's offices in Soweto but the electricity utility remains unmoved by their complaints and suggests they use power more sparingly.

Ntombi Nkwashu of the Soweto electricity crisis committee said the prepaid meters, which residents call green boxes, are a rip-off.

"I have been to Eskom several times to tell them that they are inconsiderate. Why do they switch off electricity for old people who cannot afford to pay?" she asked.

The 80-year-old Nkwashu said she has stopped using electricity for cooking and now uses a coal stove.

Another resident, Edith Mafata, said her electricity was disconnected last week because she owed Eskom more than R2300 from the previous billing system.

"I had to borrow money from a loan shark and paid R1000 to have my electricity reconnected," she said.

For R100 the customer gets 131,10 kilowatt hours plus 50 kilowatt hours free.

"I do not understand how this prepaid electricity works. I prefer using the old system, where you get electricity and pay at the end of the month," Mafata said.

On Wednesday Mafata joined hundreds of her neighbours who marched on Eskom's offices in Soweto to demand the removal of the green boxes.

Eskom's Norah Mmusi said every customer was charged according to their electricity consumption.

"If one uses more electricity, one would be charged more," she said. The cost will be high due to high usage."

People who used electricity sparingly will pay less.

"It also depends on the equipment or appliances residents use in their households and the hours they spend using such appliances. If one only uses a geyser, 131,10 kilowatt hours can last for 43 hours. If one uses a two-plate electric stove, then it will last for 65 hours."

She said some people boiled water in big pots on stoves to bath, which uses a lot of electricity.

Mmusi said the green boxes were installed in Tshiawelo as a pilot project, but the utility plans to roll them out to other parts of Soweto.