Tag: Soweto

By Botho Molosankwe for IOL

Eskom has hit back at allegations made against it by organisers of the Soweto Shutdown who claimed that the power utility’s bullying tendencies were the reason they had taken to the streets.

The Electricity Crisis Movement had planned to paralyse Soweto on Tuesday saying Eskom treats them terribly compared to people living in areas such as Sandton.

While the power utility is battling financially, everything was blamed on the Soweto debt and as result, the area was load shed longer and frequently compared to other areas, said the Movement’s Trevor Ngwane.

“Eskom’s problems did not start with the Soweto debt although every cent and billion counts. Eskom, just like many State-Owned Enterprises, has problems with corruption and mismanagement but they’re using Soweto debt as a fig leaf cover up.

“Another thing is that if a substation explodes or needs maintenance, they don’t send someone to repair it on the grounds that Soweto residents are not paying.

“It is a myopic strategy to let infrastructure go into disrepair; it’s the shortsightedness and arrogance of Eskom. Soweto people are not paying because they are poor,” he said.

However, the power utility came out guns blazing, saying Soweto currently owes Eskom R18-billion despite the fact that they scrapped the township’s debt twice in the past with an agreement that customers will start paying.

That, however, has not yielded the desired results hence the huge debt, Eskom said.

“We have however agreed to park the debt for those customers on split pre-paid meters on condition that they are loyal in purchasing electricity from Eskom vendors and not bypassing the meters for a period of 36 months.”

Eskom also said the government also provides free electricity to indigent people but that was a process administered by municipalities who uses their own criteria to identify deserving customers.

“In the case of Soweto, the City of Johannesburg administers this process. Customers are encouraged to partake so they can benefit as this will alleviate pressure.”

Ngwane also accused Eskom of loadshedding Soweto frequently and longer than other areas as a form of punishment for their debt, something that the power utility denies.

According to Eskom, load shedding follows a schedule on the power utility’s website. However, sometimes power outages occur due to network faults, vandalism and theft of infrastructure outside load shedding, the power utility said.

Eskom also said they have over the years tried to disconnect those who are not paying but that became unsafe for their staff as some residents resisted that effort.

“We have customers who are honouring their payments on monthly basis however most are not.

“In some cases, those that we managed to disconnect simply reconnected themselves and unfortunately this meant they had to be billed for their consumption and since it was not paid, it also accumulated interest.

“Eskom is however still disconnecting all customers found to have bypassed and bridged meters as well as illegal connections.

“It is to be noted that there has been numerous interventions supported by the Department of Public Enterprises in the past yielding no positive results on the growing debt. We are currently converting post-paid meters to prepaid as mentioned above in order to stop the debt from growing further.”

The Shutdown of Soweto that the Movement had planned on Tuesday in response to their displeasure with Eskom, however, failed to take off.

In one instance, the South African Police Services and Joburg Metro Police fired rubber bullets and teargas to disperse a group of about 30 protesters who were trying to block an intersection in Orlando.

Soweto blames non-payment on 1992 accord

Source: 702

Soweto residents have embarked on a protest over electricity cuts by Eskom. The residents blockaded roads and set fire to tyres on Monday morning, causing traffic delays in the area.

The power utility cut off power in Soweto after the municipalities failed to settle their debts. Eskom says it is owed more than R18-billion by the residents.

Soweto residents’ representative King Sibiya says they need a breakdown of the debt from Eskom.

“This is the question we are asking Eskom – if they say we are owing R18-billion, can they Eskom break it down for us?” he said on Twitter.
“Firstly in Soweto, we have plus-minus six malls which are using electricity more than anything, we also have Baragwanath Hospital which is a national hospital, police stations etc.”

Sibiya says they requested a meeting with Eskom but the power utility told them they need the debts to be paid.

Later Eskom conducted an audit on certain parts of the area.

“What we are being charged are estimations, Eskom doesn’t come to our houses and conduct meter readings,” says Sibiya. “In 1992 we signed an accord that the people of Soweto will pay a flat rate of R33.80.”

Meanwhile, Eskom senior manager of customer services in Gauteng Daphne Mokwena says they are not targetting Soweto in particular, but rather residents that are not paying for electricity.

“We are not privy to the 1992 document they are talking about. We have requested via our legal representatives to see the documents but we are still waiting for it. If I haven’t seen it, it does not exist,” she stated.

Responding to meter reading statement, Mokwena says they have been chased out of Soweto when their technicians go there.

She adds when that happens they use the previous meter reading to estimate the following bill.

By Lameez Omarjee for Fin24

A flat rate for electricity could help foster a culture of payment among Soweto residents, a local councillor told Fin24.

Soweto ANC councillor Mpho Sesedinyane believes a proposal for a R150 monthly flat rate for electricity could be a starting point to address the country’s non-payment woes. The flat-rate proposal was the brainchild of the South African National Civic Organisation – a non-political organisation which advocates on behalf of communities in engagements with government and other service providers.

Soweto owes Eskom almost R20bn – almost half of the total local municipal debt owed to the electricity utility.

Eskom has started disconnecting power to thousands of Soweto households as a consequence.

The now famous couple from the KFC proposal viral video went on their first outing to the Sowetan Derby on Saturday. (Video supplied by KFC)

Sesedinyane said the culture of non-payment dates back to apartheid when residents were told not to pay for public services as an act of resistance.

“Our people were told not to pay for services, not to pay for electricity,” Sesedinyane said.

The ruling ANC had not come back to residents to communicate it was noble to pay for services, after taking over in 1994, he said. Some residents can afford to pay, but are stuck in the old “mentality” and are still resisting payment, he added.

“We need to bring them back and say, we have won the country now. It is us [the ANC] that are governing now, can we now start to contribute and pay Eskom,” Sesedinyane said. These views have previously been expressed by president Cyril Ramaphosa and his deputy, David Mabuza, among others.

Sesedinyane believes the introduction of a flat rate could be a starting point to create a culture of payment for services.

“We had to agree (with Sanco) to come up with this project. For Eskom to collect revenue, it is important to start somewhere,” he said. That starting point is a flat fee of R150 households should pay per month for electricity.

If a flat rate of R150 is introduced, Eskom would at least generate some kind of income, which is better than none at all, he suggested.

Sesedinyane explained that the majority of Soweto residents are unemployed, living below the poverty line and are reliant on social grants. This means they are unable to pay for electricity.

The flat rate should be set at an amount which everyone can afford, including grant beneficiaries. After three or four years the flat rate can be increased, and at that point people will be used to paying for electricity, he added.

“People will then be in a position to know it is noble to pay for services, especially electricity. And they will be used to paying at the end of the day.”

Sesedinyane said that prepaid meters will not be the solution. “Our people will start connecting themselves illegally and they will not pay for electricity.”

Not sustainable

The South African Local Government Association – an association comprised of 257 local governments – however does not think that a flat rate would work. Spokesperson Sivuyile Mbambato told Fin24 that the proposal was “unsustainable”.

“We do not have the luxury of cheap and excess electricity like we did more than 20 years ago. Everyone must pay for what they use,” he said.

Salga is supportive of a prepaid solution. “Prepaid will be the answer in Soweto and other townships but the residents still reject that. This is an indication of how deep is the culture on non-payment in our communities,” said Mbambato.

The association’s National Executive Committee met last week to discuss solutions for rising municipal debt, among other issues.

The NEC resolved that a two-phased approach be implemented to address rising debt, according to a statement issued by Salga last week.

Phase 1 puts forward stricter enforcement by municipalities on credit control measures. This means municipalities will have to target government properties and businesses, through disconnection if there is “sufficient merit” in line with their credit control policies, the statement read.

Phase 2 involves an analysis of debt to classify debt which must be written off, or is realistically collectable.

The proposal comes after a period in which Salga interacted with various parliamentary portfolio committees on matters relating to debt owed by municipalities.

By Jenni Evans for News24

Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba is seeking an urgent meeting with the Eskom board over the power utility’s declaration that it will no longer do repairs in places illegally connected to the power grid.

This follows a meeting between Mashaba and Eskom officials on Monday to deal with complaints by Soweto residents about illegal electricity connections, vandalised infrastructure and extended blackouts.

“Due to the complex nature of the issues discussed between myself and the Eskom team, during a meeting at Megawatt Park, it was decided that it would be prudent to include the Eskom board in our deliberations,” said Mashaba in a statement.

“I have therefore requested an urgent meeting with the board of Eskom and its shareholder within the next 24 hours. The team at Eskom has indeed committed to ensuring this does take place.”

Mashaba felt it was important for the city and Eskom to work together to find solutions to issues faced by Sowetans and other residents affected by ongoing blackouts arising from Eksom’s credit management processes.

Last week Eskom threatened that it will not repair infrastructure in areas where there are illegal connections or the safety of staff cannot be guaranteed.

“Eskom will only restore supply to legal and paying customers in the areas, on condition that the community allows safe access to Eskom staff to conduct audits and remove illegal connections,” the statement said.

It was previously reported that Soweto has been ranked as one of the top defaulters in the country, where residents owe Eskom more than R17bn.

Mashaba said last week after Eskom’s warning that he felt compelled to intervene on behalf of residents who will be affected by the actions of a few.

Source: eNCA

In February, the Soweto debt was sitting at R17-billion in unpaid electricity bills.

Eskom spokesperson, Dikatso Mothae said the power utility “continues with initiatives to improve revenue recovery from residential customers”.

These include removing illegal connections, conducting meter audits, repairing faulty or tampered meters and limiting ghost vending of prepaid electricity, installing smart and/or prepaid meters within protective enclosures to prevent tampering, converting customers from post-paid to prepaid and stepping up disconnection of customers not honouring their current accounts

In his State of the Nation Address last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the ailing Eskom will continue to received further bailouts.

He said the government has a strategy to deal with Eskom defaulting on its loans.

“We will, therefore, table a Special Appropriation Bill on an urgent basis to allocate a significant portion of the R230-billion fiscal support that Eskom will require over the next 10 years in the early years,” Ramaphosa said.

The president also said that Eskom is working hard to recover money owed by municipalities and customers.

Additionally, he said that “the days of boycotting electricity payments are over”.

Meanwhile, according to Mothae, municipal debt is sitting at R20-billion as at the end of March 2019.

“We continue to have discussions with Municipalities, Provincial Government and National Government and the Inter-Ministerial Task Team to find a resolution. We are continuously reviewing Payment Arrangements with municipalities, issuing default letters and then as a last resort we start a PAJA [Promotion of Administrative Justice Act] process when they default which leads to planned power interruptions,” she said.

“However, we normally get interdicted by customers or customer groupings preventing us from interrupting electricity supply and Municipalities typically take payment holiday during these interdicts. Eskom has now started to issue summons to municipalities for the amount in the Acknowledgement of Debt,” Mothae added.

Earlier this year, the Orlando Action Committee said it was willing to negotiate with the President Cyril Ramaphosa on electricity payment.

The Sunday World reported that Gauteng townships have become “a nightmare” for Eskom employees, who are often “intimidated and assaulted when working in these areas”.

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