No end in sight to power cuts in Soweto

OVERLOAD: Dobsonville residents are suffering because of continual outages. Pic: MOHAU MOFOKENG. 16/12/2009. © Sowetan.
OVERLOAD: Dobsonville residents are suffering because of continual outages. Pic: MOHAU MOFOKENG. 16/12/2009. © Sowetan.

ILLEGAL connections in Dobsonville have caused residents pain, anguish and cost them a lot of money. And there seems to be an end in sight.

Last week residents of Block 7 went without power for six days after the main hub that supplies electricity to their homes became overloaded because of illegal connections.

Nobelungu Mamatu, 48, lodged three complaints with Eskom, but they resolved the problem only after she threatened to go to the media. She had just been discharged from hospital last Thursday when her area was plunged into darkness.

She was told that technicians would be on the scene within six hours but they did not arrive until Tuesday. She and her neighbours spent the weekend in the dark.

Mamatu said illegal connections are to blame for the problem of continual power cuts in the area.

"People who live in the shacks connect electricity illegally. The government allows too many people to move into an area without providing electricity for them. Why should I suffer because of people who are stealing electricity?" she said.

Mamatu said she was fed up.

"I was sick and tired of being made to run around so I decided to speak to the councillor and have her address our problem."

Councillor Jacquire Lekgetho confirmed what Mamatu said.

"I can tell you that illegal connections are a huge problem in our area.

"People draw electricity from street lights and put pressure on the whole system," Lekgetho said.

Gloria Mababa of Eskom said the problem of illegal connections continued despite everything the authorities had tried to do to solve the matter.

Mababa said: "Sometimes we disconnect people's electricity, only to have those people reconnect it illegally.

"Such connections cost Eskom billions of rand and no amount of fines can make up for the loss Eskom suffers," she said.

The number of illegal connections was one of the reasons why Eskom needed the much-criticised 35percent tariff increase, Mababa said.

The people of Dobsonville Block 7 have had to bear costs of their own.

Mamatu's neighbour, Sindile Mdleleni, 45, ended up with a huge bill when his computer blew up.

"I had to spend R600 to fix my computer after the power supply wires were burnt," Mdleleni said.

Salon owner Fezile Makwa, 33, had to turn away patrons during the blackout.

"December is a busy month for my business and without electricity business is not good."

Those found guilty of making illegal connections are fined R720 for the first offence and R1450 for the second.

But those caught a third time do not face the possibility of jail time.

Eskom's Mababa told Sowetan that "we take away their meter until that person has paid in full and that is all we can do from our side".