Sowetans vow to continue electricity protest

22 August 2019 - 09:51
By Penwell Dlamini and Ntswaki Raseasala
Residents of Mapetla, Soweto, blockaded roads in protest over electricity. /ZIPHOZONKE LUSHABA
Residents of Mapetla, Soweto, blockaded roads in protest over electricity. /ZIPHOZONKE LUSHABA

Residents of Mapetla Extension, Soweto, yesterday blockaded roads with burning tyres and rocks in protest over blackouts that hit the area at the beginning of June.

At least 125 homes have been without electricity for weeks after a transformer malfunctioned, leaving residents in the dark. The residents have vowed to continue their protest until power is restored by power utility Eskom.

Police were called to the scene as schooling at Mapetla Secondary could not take place due to the violent protest.

One of the residents, Zanele Makhubo, said when they asked Eskom to come and fix the problem they were told that they have to pay their electricity bills first.

"It is not just that we don't want to pay but the people who live in this area are mostly pensioners. They will not be able to pay unless an arrangement is made with Eskom."

Makhubo said Eskom should come and speak with the residents, cancel all debts and make new payment arrangements with them.

Another resident, Rosina Makhene, said living without electricity had placed a huge strain on her finances.

"We have to buy gas cylinders and have to refill them all the time. Some of us use paraffin, which is not safe. It is really bad. My mother is asthmatic so she uses an oxygen cylinder which is connected to electricity. I have had to take her to the other side of the township just to make sure that she is well.

"Eskom must come and reconnect us or else we will continue protesting. We are not going to stop until Eskom comes and speaks to us about this situation. We don't understand why they don't want to reconnect us... It is sad that our government does not want to listen to us. We voted and government now does not even care about us," Makhene said.

Last month, a similar protest erupted in Orlando East when Eskom became reluctant to restore power in the area. Residents in Rockville also faced a similar problem.

Eskom has been struggling to collect money from Soweto residents for years. In June, residents of Soweto owed Eskom about R18bn. The power utility has been embarking on measures to stop the illegal connection of electricity and to recover revenue.