Soweto residents have rejected power bills as South Africa struggles with power crisis.
July 7, 2015 In South Africa, The Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee held an urgent meeting at a community hall in the South African township to discuss what they labeled the unaffordable electricity prices that state utility Eskom has been asking them to pay in the past months. It is recalled recently that SA police fired rubber bullets to deter angry demonstrators who set tires alight to show their grievance over a new prepaid payment system which they say has sent electricity costs soaring. The city’s inhabitants reportedly owe Eskom nearly 4 billion rand in unpaid bills.
SECC was founded to counter the government’s refusal to deliver free or affordable electricity; the organization has argued that ANC, the ruling party, made promises in the dying days of apartheid to provide free electricity to all South Africans. This is what Zodwa Madiba the group’s chair had to say:
“People should stop paying till the return of Jesus, because they do not have money, yes those who have the money can go pay but those who do not have money how will they pay?, if you make the commitment of paying, with what will you pay? Because you do not even have a cent to pay the only thing you think of is buying maize meal flour,”
Thobile Mbhele, a Soweto resident, also contributed.
“What is it we are supposed to pay because our country generates its own electricity? We are not importing any electricity instead they take our resources that are meant to be enjoyed by South Africans and sell them to other countries. So we are not prepared to pay and we are not going to pay,”
Eskom Spokesperson, Khulu Phasiwe, says the residents will have to cooperate and pay bills for the company to stay running.
“We need that money, and besides the Soweto debt of 4 billion rand other municipalities in the country owe us exactly the same amount of money 4 billion rand, so in total between Soweto and other municipalities we have a debt of 8 billion rand. Money that we desperately need so that we can balance our balance sheets but also most importantly to make sure that our operations are not affected.”
Collin Aboss, part owner of Nexdor restaurant, located in Soweto‘s Vilakazi street near Near Nelson Mandela‘s home says they are struggling with the business:
“It has been very difficult, very very trying times and you would have thought by now South Africa will be really ahead in terms of managing some of these crises. Load shedding has affected our business very adversely, you know you start to get into this business and you think it is possible to do, when you are placed in a famous street with the tourists coming through it all looks good from outside the numbers really look good, we look all glossy.”
Eskom was granted a 12.7 percent tariff hike in April and its latest request, if granted, would take price increases to a total of more than 22 percent. The tariff hikes are expected to be implemented next year.