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Soweto power protests continue

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Protests against Eskom have resumed in Soweto, with angry residents blocking roads with burning tyres and rocks, as the electricity billing crisis continues.

In this file picture, residents from Nomzamo in Soweto Orlando East protest outside the Johannesburg High Court, demanding electricity. Picture: Bhekikhaya Mabaso/African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG – Protests against Eskom have resumed in Soweto, with angry residents blocking roads with burning tyres and rocks, as the electricity billing crisis continues.

The protest started along the Soweto highway, with angry residents blocking entrances and exists in Dobsonville.

They said their Eskom bills were increasing even though they have been using prepaid electricity.

Seth Mazibuko, the founder of the Orlando Action Committee, said they had been without electricity for more than two months.

“Illegal connections are becoming a lucrative business in Soweto. Residents are finding it cheaper to pay R350 to connect their electricity than to pay their high electricity bill to Eskom,” he said.

“Earlier today, a child was taken to the ICU because she needed oxygen and they did not have electricity in their home.

“Eskom needs to come and engage with the residents to understand the grief we are battling with and find a way to solve the unending electricity issues.”

Mazibuko said residents would not back down until their cries had been heard, and that water and electricity continued to be the biggest service delivery issue in the community.

Joburg Environment and Infrastructure Services MMC Mpho Moerane held a “successful” meeting with the residents of Soweto on Monday to address the challenges of electricity supply in the area.

This was Moerane’s second visit in three days to Naledi, Chiawelo, Nomzamo informal settlement, Thokoza Park, Rockville, and the surrounding areas.

“The City of Joburg and Eskom are to conclude and sign a memorandum of understanding which states that the city will take over assets worth about R4.7 billion and debt worth about R7bn.

“The CoJ is to take over all the consumer debt and assets from Eskom as part of the takeover agreement and to have separate engagements with the National Treasury on takeover debt. Eskom is to immediately begin a process to replace all faulty mini-subs (sub-stations) in and around Soweto, and switch on all the affected customers,” said Moerane.

The city has been gearing itself to take over electricity distribution from Eskom for Soweto by the end of September 2021.

Moerane said substantial investments are currently being made by the city to address the current emergency in electricity supply and for the normalisation of the credit management processes, whereby only individual defaulting customers would be engaged, and not through the current blanket switch-off.

The protest progressed to a nearby bus depot on Tuesday morning, blocking the road to Rea Vaya buses and forcing commuters to find alternate means to get to work and school.

The bus company took to its social media accounts to update passengers about the situation.

“The situation remains the same in Soweto, Rea Vaya buses are still diverted. Rea Vaya advises passengers that buses are unable to operate as protesters have blocked the entrance and exit points of the Dobsonville depot. We apologise for the inconvenience and will provide feedback,” read the bus service tweet.

An hour later, after the first update, it added: “The situation has not changed, and buses will not operate this morning. Passengers are advised to look for alternative transport.”

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