Former Joburg mayor promises to resolve Soweto electricity problems amid protests on voting day

Sowetans took to the streets on voting day to show their dissatisfaction at the lack of services and the rolling blackouts which have left many in the dark for months now.

Amanda Khoza Presidency reporter
Protests in Soweto resulted in several roads leading to voting stations being blocked. Electricity issues were at the top of the list of gripes.
Protests in Soweto resulted in several roads leading to voting stations being blocked. Electricity issues were at the top of the list of gripes.
Image: Amanda Khoza

The roads leading to Hitekani Primary School in Chiawelo, Soweto — where President Cyril Ramaphosa voted on Monday — were strewn with debris showing evidence of service delivery protests in the area on voting day.

Residents took to the streets to show their dissatisfaction at non-delivery of services and rolling blackouts which have left many in the dark for months now.

But former mayor Mpho Moerane has promised residents that electricity issues will be attended to urgently. Speaking to the media at the primary school, Moerane said service delivery protests had been going on for some time.

“It was due to electricity problems, but the problems are not only in Soweto. There are problems in Orange Farm, Diepsloot and Ivory Park,” said Moerane.

In Soweto, he said, there were three spots — Chiawelo, Diepkloof and Rockville — where people were complaining about ongoing blackouts.

“We, as the City of Johannesburg, are engaging Eskom and have been working together. We have been helping them with stock because they had no substations,” he said. 

Moerane said that last week Thursday the city delivered two mini-substations, one in Chiawelo and one in Rockville.

“This will make sure that we restore electricity in many areas. We had 44 mini-substations that were out of order and so far we have replaced eight between us and Eskom, and people are getting connected,” he said.

Moerane said that in the Nomzamo informal settlement the transformers were either not working because of illegal connections or had been stolen, but this had been addressed.

“There is also an element of cable theft, which is on the rise,” he said.

He told communities to protect infrastructure.

“We are giving assurance that people must go out and vote to ensure that the government delivers basic services. We will solve the electricity problem,” he said.

Moerane said the city had signed a memorandum of understanding with Eskom to kick-start the takeover process of Soweto, Ivory Park, Diepsloot and Sandton.

“It’s not an overnight thing. We are still going to discuss taking over infrastructure worth R4bn. There is also an issue of debt in Soweto, so the MOU will guide us on the process that we will undertake.

“We must give them services; it is our responsibility and it is their democratic right to get services from the municipalities.”

On coalitions, Moerane believes the ANC will win the metro outright.

“Since 2019, we have been governing with other parties and we have worked well with them. The partnerships will be discussed at national level. The NEC will discuss the coalitions,” he said.

On low voter turnout, Moerane said in the townships people preferred to vote in the afternoons.

“We want to discourage that,” he said.

While electricity is the dominant problem in Soweto, other Chiawelo residents hoped that the government would fight crime, create employment for the youth, provide water and houses, and fix the ageing infrastructure. 

Tsatsawani Anna Majujwa, 93, said she was elated that she could make her voice count.

Her daughter, Johanna Majujwa, 60, translated for her mother, saying: “She wants things to improve because people still do not have water, electricity or jobs. In the past everything was fine but now the youngsters smoke nyaope and as the elderly we are scared of them. They used to be so well behaved.”

Tsatsawani Anna Majujwa, 93, said she was elated that she could make her voice heard as she cast her ballot in Soweto on Monday. Helping her was her daughter, 60-year-old Johanna Mjujwa.
Tsatsawani Anna Majujwa, 93, said she was elated that she could make her voice heard as she cast her ballot in Soweto on Monday. Helping her was her daughter, 60-year-old Johanna Mjujwa.
Image: Amanda Khoza

Accompanied by his brother James, Vincent Mahlangu, 48, who is has a disability, told TimesLIVE that he hopes the government will increase his disability grant. 

Thirty-nine-year-old James said his brother would like everyone to have equal rights. “We need jobs so that we don’t sit at home. We cannot support ourselves,” he said.

Mahlangu survives on a government grant of about R1,900 but he says it’s not enough.

One of many South African youths who are struggling to find a job, first-time voter Zanele Nechigweta, 21, from Chiawelo, said she hoped the party that won would create jobs for the youth.

“We have challenges of unemployment. Most of us have degrees and PhDs  but we are still sitting at home because there are no jobs.”

Nechigweta says employment has been declining and the Covid-19 pandemic has made matters worse.

“I am hoping that more doors will open and there will be more opportunities for jobs.” 

Gauteng premier David Makhura, who was in the area to ensure that all voting stations were safe, said: “We encourage all voters to come out in large numbers to exercise their democratic right to shape their destiny.

“Today is an opportunity for the voters to express their voice, today is their day. I am going to be working around the province where there are glitches that require government support. We will be going to places where the police and the IEC will need us.”

TimesLIVE


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