Residents of Soweto have offered to pay Eskom a monthly flat rate of R150 to keep their lights on

The suburb owes Eskom an estimated R18bn in unpaid electricity bills.

Scores of Soweto residents clad in ANC regalia were joined by their counterparts from Orange Farm, Ivory Park, Alexandra and Diepsloot as they marched from Uncle Tom’s hall in Orlando West to Eskom’s offices in Diepkloof on Wednesday.

The march, led by City of Johannesburg Mayor Geoff Makhubo, was dominated by elderly residents who chanted slogans as they walked.

Among the songs they sang was Asibadali ugesi ngoba asinamali (We don’t pay for lights because we don’t have money).

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Makhubo promised residents the City would be meeting with ministers Pravin Gordhan and Gwede Mantashe as well the National Energy Regulator of South Africa to address blackouts in Soweto and other areas.

Makhubo said residents were complaining about access to reliable electricity and dealing with extended periods of load shedding because Eskom was not sticking to its own schedules.

The South African National Civic Organisation’s (SANCO) greater Johannesburg secretary, Atwell Kama, said residents were tired of being abused by Eskom.

He added the power utility should allow residents to pay a R150 monthly flat rate to settle their debt, adding they could not afford R6 500 to pay Eskom to reconnect their houses.

Kama said SANCO was worried Eskom’s infrastructure within the City was old and not capable of meeting the residents’ demands.

“During the winter season, many substations are not functioning as expected. Some of them are old and some of them are overloaded. Mini substations can’t provide the adequate supply of electricity due to the high demand … some of our people have been switched to prepaid meters despite the majority of them being unemployed and pensioners, and as a result they have illegally connected themselves.

“Residents can’t afford electricity, and some are illegally connected because they are unemployed. Some survive on social grants. Eskom is not a profit-making business but an institution to provide services to the masses,” said Kama.

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