Soweto electricity shutdown fails to spark

Several roads around Soweto were expected to be closed on Tuesday, including the Chris Hani and Bolani roads.
Several roads around Soweto were expected to be closed on Tuesday, including the Chris Hani and Bolani roads.
Image: Sthando Mkhabela via Twitter

The organisers of the Soweto mass shutdown say they will try other ways of getting the attention of power utility Eskom following the failure of their planned shutdown.

The shutdown campaign gained popularity on Monday after a voice note that went viral warned Sowetans not to go to work or use public transport on Tuesday and Wednesday because of the planned shutdown.

The shutdown was also one of the leading trends on social media on Tuesday morning.

Several roads around Soweto were expected to be closed on Tuesday, including the Chris Hani and Bolani roads. However, it was business as usual in the township with public transport being available and roads clear.

Many people in parts of Soweto woke up and went onto the streets wanting to be heard as far as Eskom is concerned. What happened is that the community did come out and our objective was achieved; what we are asking them is for them to give us an opportunity to meet with them,"said a spokesperson for the organizing committee, Rufus Tsheke.

Tsheke said he was concerned about police allegedly using force against some of his comrades who had staged a protest in Orlando East. However, he said he was satisfied that the plight of the people of Soweto had received the attention of government and other authorities.

“The protest brought people together and the support that we got was good for us. They know that we are here and they know that we have concerns,” said Tsheke.

Tsheke cited several reasons for the shutdown including the disconnection of certain houses in Soweto from the power grid, lack of maintainance of some sub-stations and errors in billing. He also accused Eskom of load-shedding Soweto more than any other places.

"The service that Eskom gives us is not up to scratch. We are frustrated because we have been asking to meet them for a year,” said Tsheke. "[We] go through load-shedding three times a day … and they don’t do that in other parts of the country. It's like they are punishing us for the debt,” said Tsheke.

Soweto currently owes Eskom R18bn in unpaid debt. The electricity protests were expected to continue on Wednesday.

Eskom spokesperson Sikhonathi Mantshantsha said Eskom was willing to engage with the people of Soweto.

He disputed that Soweto was getting more load-shedding than other areas. "Everyone is treated equally across the country, whoever has a problem our staff is there on the ground, they can approach our office. Even those who have a problem with their statements,” said Mantshantsha.

He emphasised that all South Africans had a responsibility of paying for their electricity. Electricity meters were also being rolled out in Soweto as part of efforts of ensuring payment.

Another group called the Gauteng Electricity Movement said it would also hold protests on Tuesday. Among areas that are expected to be affected is Soweto, Alexandra, Tembisa and the Vaal.

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