The power utility says electricity will be restored when 60% of residents issued with reconnection notices have paid their bills.
Scores of angry residents in Pretoria North are up in arms over Eskom’s decision to discontinue their electricity supply due to illegal connections, meter bypasses and tampering.
Residents of Klipgat, Winterveldt, Mabopane, Slovo and Marikana took their grievances to the streets barricading roads with burning tyres and rocks on Tuesday demanding that Eskom restore power to their townships.
Eskom, however, demanded that residents who have tampered with their meters pay R6 052.60 in six months – an amount which some said they could not afford.
The disconnection has affected everyone in the area, including law-abiding residents whose accounts are up to date.
Learners missed their exams as they have not been able to travel to school to write their exams since Monday, while other residents were inconvenienced when they had to go to work.
‘We will pay the little we can afford’
A resident from Slovo, Mpho Mofongolo, says residents are willing to pay the money that Eskom was demanding but it will have to be in instalments that the community and Eskom agree on.
“We are not refusing to pay the money. We have even sent our councillor and other community leaders to go to their offices, but they closed the gates on them. Most of the people here are not employed, but we are saying that we can pay the little that we can afford.
“This is very painful. Our food in our fridge is rotten, our children were supposed to be writing exams, but the schools are closed which will have an impact on their education.”
Mofongolo, who is unemployed, says life without electricity was unsustainable.
“A single candle is R4, paraffin is R23, 9kg of gas is R300, where will I get this money when I am not employed and not even receiving the R350 grand? Let them give us a proposal which all parties can agree to.”
Mofongolo says they are prepared to go on with the strike until Eskom meet their demands.
Eskom must write off the debt and start afresh
Another resident, Dikeledi Mabasa, says it will be better if Eskom writes off their debt and everyone started afresh as they cannot afford the money being demanded by Eskom.
“We do not have that money, people are not employed here. Let them bring in prepaid meters so that everyone can account for their own electricity.
“Rand Water did the same and people have since been paying for their water properly.”
Eskom accused of not co-operating
Local ward councillor Macelelni Mazibuko says Eskom does not want to co-operate with them.
Mazibuko says the current system was unfair as they were expected to pay the same amount businesses are paying.
“They don’t want to speak to the leadership in these areas. At some point, we had a resolution that was taken between the community and Eskom that they would install prepaid meters.”
He also highlights the plight of those on chronic medication.
“Some people have medication that needs to be kept in the fridge, and the cutting of electricity has a huge impact on them.”
In a bid to find solutions, Mazibuko says the councillor in the affected areas will meet with Eskom representatives on Friday.
Substations failed because of illegal connections
Eskom spokesperson Amanda Qithi says in recent months, Eskom recorded an exponentially high number of failed mini-substations due to the network overloading as a result of illegal connections, meter bypasses and tampering.
Other reasons included unauthorised operations on the electricity network, vandalism and theft of electrical equipment as well as purchasing electricity tokens from ghost vendors.
Qithi says to restore the electricity in the area, Eskom has implemented a replacement or repair process which includes meter audits, the removal of illegal connections and tampering, disconnections of those who have contravened, and issuance of reconnection charges which is the R6 052.60.
She says Eskom has also engaged the residents on a deferred payment arrangement (DPA) where they are encouraged to enter into a six months payment arrangement to settle the reconnection charge of R6 052.60. The individuals that tampered with their meters were identified during the audit.
She says the electricity supply will be restored when a threshold of 60% of residents issued with the re-connection notices have paid the initial R500.
“The balance can be paid over six months. The disconnection process will be made should customers not honour the DPA. We encourage indigent households to register for free basic electricity (FBE) with the Tshwane municipality and take full advantage of the support programme to cushion their limitations.
“We urge the customers to make use of the FBE once they have been advised by the municipality that they qualify for it, as only 50% of those who qualify, use it. In other areas across Gauteng or Eskom where indigent customers are participating in this programme, it is evident that customers continue buying electricity and start managing their consumption.”
She says a fixed charge per household will result in customers paying a fixed amount irrespective of the amount of electricity used.
“This could lead to wasteful usage of electricity. Above all, this will cause network overloading and hindrance in providing good service to customers.”