Power cuts for Thulani residents: “pay R500 fine for lights”

Various townships in Gauteng have been experiencing power cuts unrelated to loadshedding. The power cuts have been taking place from 2021. It’s due to Eskom’s attempt to recover the amount of money lost to illegal connections, prepaid metre bypassing and cable theft.

The community of Thulani in Soweto experienced a month-long power outage in July. Power has been restored for now. Residents were advised to pay R500 per household to have their lights switched on. 

Despite pleas from the communities that they cannot afford it, Eskom maintains that people must pay R500 per house. This payment must take place over six months and it’s for Eskom to reportedly recover some of their lost revenue. Eskom also wants households to install prepaid metres. 

“We do not have money to pay Eskom. Had we had it in the beginning, we would be buying electricity,” said Sarah Mohlodi, a 77-year-old pensioner who lives off her pension grant. “The money I get goes to feeding my children. My two grandkids do not have any work – so too their parents. I cannot even spare a R50 once I have spent on all our necessities,” said Mohlodi.

Eskom urged individuals such as Mohlodi to apply for a special concession with the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) that states that they cannot afford to pay. 

“The problem is that the majority of us will be applying for that concession, so will they really recover the money?” asked one of the residents. In July, Eskom, the community and members of the City Of Johannesburg municipality got together to discuss the terms and conditions that were to follow if residents wanted their lights back. 

These terms were read out to the community and members were open to ask questions. The ambiance at the meeting was that of worry – there was no chanting or song as custom dictates. Residents were desperate to hear the solution. The office of the councillor was not available for comment on the matter. 

The situation in Thulani is similar to that of Finetown,in Ennerdale. Residents from the township were also required to pay R500 from their individual debts of R6000. Speaking to News24, Eskom Gauteng spokesperson Amanda Qithi said: “Each customer must pay R6052.60 to be reconnected. Alternatively, residents should enter into a Deferred Payment Arrangement (DFA) with Eskom,”  

The Daily Vox reached out to Qithi for comment on the progress in Thulani. The piece will be updated once comment has been received. 

Thulani residents were promised lights by the end of July. Indeed, lights were returned on July 30 after several meetings and negotiations by counsellors with Eskom. The community was, however, warned that if the debt is not paid consistently- power will go off again. The R500 will be collected by chosen representatives in each street and delivered to the councillor’s office. 

This is the same way residents of Diepkloof, Soweto also got their electricity back. 

Kgomomosto Mohale, a resident of Diepkloof told The Daily Vox they had the same issue. Mohale said “Our lights came back on Christmas day last year (2021), but this was after several protests by the community. They (then) gave us these expensive prepaid metres.” Many residents share the same fear, that the prepaid metres will have them paying more than they ever had. 


What it will take for South Africa’s ailing power utility to keep going

Similar sentiments are shared by the community of Tembisa. The residents are currently protesting over a number of issues. One of those is prepaid metres. Community members are worried that they will not be able to pay for their electricity once these are installed. 

Featured image via Creative Commons