“We will disrupt the streets until Jesus comes! Eskom should come and engage us”

Debris from the protests against electricity disconnection in Diepkloof, Soweto. Archive photo by Chris Gilili

Diepkloof residents have vowed to continue their blockade of highways until Eskom engages them.

Residents of Diepkloof Zone 3, who have been in the dark for more than two weeks say they will keep protesting until their electricity is restored by the state-owned power utility, Eskom.

Nyaniso Gova, a resident and community leader in Zone 3 says Eskom is selfish and arrogant to them as customers. “Eskom is truly treating us like animals here. Because they were wrong to just switch off the power for everyone. Some of us do buy electricity. They sent us disconnection orders saying that they will cut off our power if we don’t pay R6,052.52 for each house,” said Gova. He says it was unfair of Eskom because they have failed to give some houses meter numbers or their customer interface units (CIUs).

According to Gova, Diepkloof Zone 3 owes Eskom over R2.3-million. The residents have been in the dark for over two weeks. To address their frustration they have barricaded both the Soweto Highway and the N1 with stones and burning tyres.

Gova also denied allegations by Eskom that residents were tampering with meters, using illegal connections and buying power from ghost vendors. “We will disrupt the streets until Jesus comes, Eskom should come and engage us. We will not suffer for too long and tolerate it. Eskom must switch our lights on and engage us and then we find a way forward. They have accused some of us of buying illicit electricity and illegal connections, then they must deal with such individuals the right way,” Gova added.

Gova said Eskom is alleging that 0.5% of Zone 3 residents are paying for electricity while 99.5% are not paying. “We are saying to Eskom that it mustn’t disconnect all of us. They must only disconnect those who don’t pay. Why cut off everyone, because I buy electricity? Eskom must do their database. We can’t suffer because of their ignorance;” said Gova.

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In a video insert produced by Elitsha in October, residents of Dube said that the intermittent power supply is a nightmare that they have always lived with.

Insert on Eskom electricity crisis and its impact on poor communities. Produced by Mzi Velapi

Lindiwe Tsotetsi has run a hair salon in Zone 3 for five years. The power outage is a huge dent in her business. “I can’t fully operate my salon because of the power issue. I can’t even afford to pay rent since November. This has now been going for two full weeks. I lose more than R800 a day because of this, and I also have petrol costs of coming here each and everyday. The situation here is very tough,” said Tsotetsi.

Tsotetsi is a mother of four and the sole breadwinner. “It will be really hard to maintain my family if Eskom doesn’t fix this. At least my landlord is an understanding person otherwise I would eventually be forced to close shop;” she added. 

The BP garage in Diepsloot Zone 3 has also been struggling as it has been relying on a generator. According to the garage manager, Fulu Thidiela the power outage costs them over R100,000 every day.

Oratile Ditlopo is also a resident of Diepsloot Zone 3 and he blames Eskom for poor communication. “We have tenants here and they blame us when power is out. One of my tenants runs a sewing business which helps her pay rent and maintain a family. It has since shut. One of them runs a welding business and he also cannot do anything at the moment;” said Ditlopo.

“It really is unfair for us to collect rent monthly while people don’t have electricity. This is the second time Eskom is doing this to us. In September they also cut of our power without communicating with us. They jumped certain houses when they delivered the CIUs. People do want to buy electricity but it is not possible without those CIUs and meter numbers. That’s out biggest problem with Eskom,” said Ditlopo.

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In it’s statement, Eskom said it has cut electricity in Diepkloof because it was doing necessary network audits, to monitor energy consumption. “During this process, illegal connections are removed, the network is secured, any damages to the infrastructure is repaired and reconnection fees are issued to customers found to be in contravention as is the case with Diepkloof Zone 3. Around 700 customers were disconnected and issued with a reconnection fee of R6052.52 for non-payment of electricity,” Eskom said. The power utility says electricity will be restored once the reconnection fees have been settled.

According to the Geuteng spokesperson of Eskom, Amanda Qithi, just in the past eight months, Eskom has lost revenue of  R96-million in Diepkloof alone. “We have observed that customers’ buying trends are dismally low since their conversion from post-paid to prepaid meters in that area. The meters were installed to assist them to take better control of their electricity consumption;” said Qithi. She denied the allegation that some households didn’t have CIUs or meters to buy electricity, or that this was to be blamed on Eskom.

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About Chris Gilili 39 Articles
Chris Gilili, a 23 year old freelance journalist based in East London. Graduated from Walter Sisulu University media studies school in 2015. Had a stint with Independent Media, in sports writing. Passionate about news and the media.