Joburg mayor Geoff Makhubo joins Soweto electricity protest

    Residents of Soweto singing outside the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg ahead of their court case against Eskom. Residents took Eskom to court demanding electricity to townships that have been without electricity for more than 12 months. Photo Thulani Mbele. 12/11/2019

    Joburg mayor Geoff Makhubo joined Soweto residents who marched to the Eskom offices in Diepkloof on Wednesday to submit their memorandum of grievances.

    This latest march follows a ‘Soweto Shutdown’ picket that was planned to paralyse the township over electricity issues for two days but did not come to fruition.

    Some of  some residents were however not deterred and went on the march that was joined by Makhubo and other ANC councillors.

    The residents, said they were protesting against what they call high electricity tariffs and endless power cuts.

    Eskom says Soweto residents owe the power utility R18-billion but residents are questioning the billing system as well as the accuracy behind that amount.

    Makhubo, who was among the marching crowd, said them being there could not be seen as a way of campaigning but rather putting the interest of the people first.

    He also said they stand with the people of Soweto because the area was their strong hold as 42 councillors there were ANC.

    Makhubo also said all that they want from Eskom was reliable electricity and for them to stick to their load shedding schedule and not cut people off for abnormal hours.

    Regarding the R18bn the residents owe, Makhubo said: “We have to start paying for services going forward and say what ever we consume today is what we need to pay for.

    “Let’s discuss with the residents what to do with past debt so they can freeze the debt and find mechanisms to pay the debt off. But what we need from government side, from Eskom side is reliable electricity for our people.”

    Eskom, however, said they have already scrapped the township’s debt twice in the past with an agreement that customers will start paying.

    “We have however agreed to park the debt for those customers on split pre-paid meters on condition that they are loyal in purchasing electricity from Eskom vendors and not bypassing the meters for a period of 36 months.”

    Eskom also said the government also provides free electricity to indigent people but that was a process administered by municipalities who uses their own criteria to identify deserving customers.

    “In the case of Soweto, the City of Johannesburg administers this process.  Customers are encouraged to partake so they can benefit as this will alleviate pressure.”

    The Joburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) spokesperson Wayne Minnaar said they had been monitoring the situation and that everything was under control as there were enough police officers on the ground.