Communities in Ekurhuleni are very angry about the prepaid electricity meter system. They say it is expensive and leaves them broke. Electricity is supposed to bring light and energy, but to the people of Ekhuruleni, electricity is a nightmare.
EEO monitors interviewed residents in Duduza, Dunnottar, Geduld, Barcelona, Tsakane and Wright Park
This is what we learnt from the people :
The community is angry that their past protests where ignored.
In September 2011, the Kwa Thema community had a massive strike. People rejected the installation of prepaid electricity meters . The manager of the Community Care Centre refused to accept the memorandum from the people.They wanted to buy electricity straight from ESKOM or to go back to the flat rate system. The manager called in the police who fired tear gas. An old woman was injured. The people rioted. Three cars were burnt on the scene because the community was very angry.
The people prefer the Flat rate, where people are billed as they use and it is payable to the municipality on a monthly basis. They want Eskom to supply them directly
They want ESKOM to supply them directly. The VIP system that they have arranged with the municipality means that the electricity is sold to the the municipality who sells to the vendor who sells to the community. The vendors have to make a profit. This means that Kwa Thema electricity rates are higher than the other communities
100 free units is not enough. People suffer blocking.
Each and every household every month receive 100 free units; a subsidy from the government for everyone who uses prepaid electricity. But this is not sufficient for a very poor community.
Electricity rate is high. When people fall behind in their rent the council blocks their electricity purchase. In order for residents to unblock they must agree to pay a certain percentage of the owed amount. In many cases this results in months without electricity .Even indigents get blocked.
Sarah Mgidi from Kwa Thema was blocked and she had to report it to the Customer Care Centre, they told her that she pays a small amount of rent which was R90 instead of R200. She had to pay R700 to unblock it.
“My electricity was blocked in 2012”, said Slindile, “I had to pay R1,200 to unblock it. The clerk also said that I have to pay R200 for rent every month in order to have electricity.
Ms Ntombifikile’s electricity was blocked becaue the previous ownwers who were deceased did not pay rent. She was then asked to pay R1000 and she managed to negotiate for R445.
People are forced to break the law.
Because they are desperate people take the law into their own and and connect illegally to the electricty grid. This is called “bridging”.
Elias a resident said “I bridged electricity; I thought it will be a solution not to spend a lot of money purchasing it”. Municipal officials came into his house and they found out that he has bridged the electricity. They removed his Meter box. He stayed 30 days without electricity. The municipality charged him R2600 to replace the meter box. He finds it very difficult to raise that money. He is now in a worse situation.Applying for Indigent status is very difficult for most families who may qualify.
Families who may qualify for indigent status struggle to fill all the forms and get all the affidavits. They get little help from the council.
The problem is unemployment and poverty
Watever the system, the problem is unemployent and poverty. The blocking of electricity makes the community member to overspend the little budget they have.
The municipality is part of the problem
We found out that the reason for the municipality to come up with the above strategies is because it owes ESKOM. The strategies are a way of them to settle the debt. We need to mobilize the community and consult the municipality on the challenges of the prepay electricity and to demand answers for our request that was sent to Mondli Gugubele.
By: Sabatini Motloung, vuyelwa Cindi, Mandla JWili, Gugu Nkabinde, Ayanda Baloyi, Sandile Nombeni, Qedusizi Masina, Molly Mbangula, Tebo MOtene, Mapule Kamodi and Meshack Mbangula