Soweto residents protest for electricity

Residents of Orlando East shut down parts of the area this week protesting over lack of electricity for two weeks. / Thulani Mbele
Residents of Orlando East shut down parts of the area this week protesting over lack of electricity for two weeks. / Thulani Mbele

It has been a tough two weeks for the residents of Orlando East, Soweto, after a substation caught fire leaving them without electricity with temperatures dropping.

Lerato Bile, who runs the Nthabiseng Daycare Centre which caters for about 60 children, told Sowetan life was extremely difficult in freezing weather without electricity in the facility.

"We have to buy gas every week so that we can be able to cook for the kids. Our priority, though, was to make sure that the kids are warm. We borrowed blankets so that we could keep all the kids warm. It has been very difficult to us," said Bile.

While a similar establishment had closed its doors after losing power, Bile said theirs had to remain open.

"Some of the parents do not have any other option. They leave their kids here and have no other place they can take them. We could not shut down our service, the parents have already paid."

Yesterday, Orlando East residents blocked roads leading to the area, protesting against the power outage.

Technicians were sent to the area yesterday and residents abandoned their protest and began cleaning the streets.

Patience Nkoe, one of the residents, said when the outage was reported to Eskom on June 21, they were told that the people who could fix the substation were not around and would only be available on June 24. But they were still waiting.

A community meeting was informed by a delegation which had gone to local Eskom offices that power would not be restored because residents were not paying their electricity bills, Nkoe said.

"We then decided to close the streets because we felt that is the only language that Eskom could understand. We also went to the local Eskom offices and blockaded the entrance there. Here they are and they are fixing the substation," Nkoe said.

Nkoe admitted that a lot of residents were not paying their bills because they "were not working". "We don't have the money that Eskom is asking from us. Where are you expected to get R4,000."

Revenue collection in Soweto has been a huge problem for Eskom for years with many residents not paying or illegally connecting electricity. Last week, it was reported that in six months, residents' debt increased by more than R1bn to R18bn.

Efforts to get comment from power utility were unsuccessful yesterday.

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