52 Soweto houses left in the dark for months after substation blows up

A police officer gestures to a man pleading for the release of a protester detained for breaching the lockdown regulations in Soweto. / MARCO LONGARI / AFP
A police officer gestures to a man pleading for the release of a protester detained for breaching the lockdown regulations in Soweto. / MARCO LONGARI / AFP

Residents of Naledi, Soweto, are fuming after their wait for a replacement of a mini-substation that blew up was prolonged due to the Covid-19 national lockdown.

Community members said 52 households have been without electricity since February 15, and Eskom has kept them in the dark about the return of power.

Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said Eskom does not have enough mini-substations in their reserve and this has resulted in the delay of deliveries of mini-substations from their suppliers.

The residents yesterday told Sowetan their ward councillor George Basopane never communicated this explanation to them.

Mathews Mamabolo, a community leader in the area, accused Basopane of failing to resolve the matter.

"A few days after the problem occurred, some people in the community tried to fix the issue themselves by calling a private technician. He fixed it but then loadshedding kicked in... it broke again, leaving the 52 houses in the dark," Mamabolo said.

He said they called Eskom whose technician realised that the mini-sub was tampered with.

"They didn't want to fix it because they said it would require them to report the matter to their superiors first. Then we had a meeting with the councillor who demanded the names of those individuals who tampered with the box.

"But he knew them as well because he was there on the day [the private technician fixed the substation]."

Shasha Mabaso, another community member, said Basopanerefused to engage them, telling them he does not work for Eskom.

"We had a meeting with the councillor and he said he doesn't work for Eskom. He later met with us and told us that because the box was tampered with, Eskom will need to open a case so that the insurer would be able to replace the box while conducting investigations," she said.

"But the problem is that he knows the people who messed with the box and has not been co-operating. He has done very little to assist us. We [those who did not get the technician to do work on the substation] even opened a case so that the process could run quicker," she said.

She said residents have suffered financially since the issue arose.

"We're spending more money on gas and paraffin and can't store away food for too long because it goes off. We need answers on when this issue will be fixed.

Basopane disputed the claims that he has been frustrating the process of getting his community a new mini-substation.

"I wasn't there the day the box was tampered with, that is not true. I have worked hard to try to get Eskom to restore electricity to those houses but I am only a mediator. I was doing them a favour because it's not my responsibility to log complaints."

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