Home News Sol faces backlash over electricity blockages, but shutdown averted

Sol faces backlash over electricity blockages, but shutdown averted

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Angry city residents have issued a stern warning to Sol Plaatje Municipality to never block their electricity metres again. This after tensions escalated on the weekend and the city nearly experienced another “shutdown” on Monday due to widespread power cuts last week.

Sol Plaatje Municipality Speaker Nomazizi Maputle attended a community meeting in Club 2000 on Sunday afternoon. Picture: Supplied

ANGRY city residents have issued a stern warning to Sol Plaatje Municipality to never block their electricity meters again.

This after tensions escalated on the weekend and the city nearly experienced another “shutdown” on Monday due to widespread power cuts last week.

The decision to implement electricity blockages in areas like Phutanang, the Galeshewe Civic Centre and Roodepan triggered outrage among residents. Even those who had paid their bills apparently found themselves without power after their meters were blocked.

Protests intensified when Santa residents took to the streets and burnt tyres and blockaded roads on Saturday, demanding that their electricity be unblocked.

Reports indicate that the roads were cleared for traffic after residents learned that no municipal officials were available to engage with them over the weekend.

Meanwhile, residents in other wards looked set to join the protests on Sunday afternoon, only to discover that the electricity had been unblocked.

In a surprising turn of events, the municipality seemingly reversed its decision on Sunday afternoon, responding to the growing threat of protest action.

Efforts by the DFA to get comment from Sol Plaatje Municipality on the matter proved futile and no response had been received to media enquiries by the time of publication.

Residents have meanwhile accused the municipality of triggering the protests by being “inconsiderate” and “targeting the poorest of the poor”.

They also questioned the timing of the blockages, especially considering that financial constraints affect most households at this time of the month.

Social media has become a platform for venting frustration, with some residents expressing anger at being left in darkness after being “used for votes” in the recent elections.

On Sunday afternoon, various wards held community meetings in preparation for a planned shutdown on Monday. This coincided with the restoration of electricity.

In response to recent media reports, residents also raised concerns about the municipality allegedly having to return more than R50 million of allocated bulk funding for infrastructure to the National Treasury.

Several entry roads in Galeshewe were already barricaded with rocks and burning tyres by 5pm on Sunday.

Amid the escalating tension on the weekend, the municipality extended its operating hours to Sunday in order to assist clients with account payment arrangements. A notice from the local authority stated, “The Sol Plaatje Municipality hereby informs all clients requiring account payment arrangements that our offices are open today (Sunday) until 3pm.”

In Club 2000, one of the wards that convened community meetings on Sunday, municipal Speaker Nomazizi Maputle and the local ward councillor were present. The community members made it clear that they were not interested in any engagements and only wanted their electricity unblocked, or they would take to the streets. In response, the Speaker reportedly made several calls to unblock the electricity. Meanwhile, in John Daka and Donkerhoek, the roads were already barricaded.

Many residents who attempted to make payment arrangements felt it was placing them under unnecessary financial pressure. They also said they encountered inconsiderate cashiers who demanded money they couldn’t afford.

One homeowner, who is facing a financial crisis, hadn’t paid her electricity bill for April and May. When she realised her electricity was blocked, she followed the call to visit the municipality. There, she borrowed R400 to strike a deal: paying R300 and purchasing R100 worth of electricity. However, the cashier apparently insisted on R500 to unblock her electricity, which she couldn’t afford. She had to borrow an additional R300 from a loan shark.

Frustrated, she wondered why she bothered making arrangements with such “arrogant people” who “just spit in your face”.

Another resident reported that her electricity was blocked, even though she had paid her account. She expressed frustration, saying, “I pay my account through a debit order, but they still continued to block my electricity. They can’t expect me to stand in the long queue with people who haven’t paid. The municipality must get its house in order.”

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