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Prolonged Power Outage Affects Soweto Community, Elderly Left in the Dark

Published February 29, 2024
3 months ago

Residents of Dobsonville, Soweto, have been living in darkness for over seven months, enduring a prolonged power outage that has disproportionately affected the community’s vulnerable population, including the elderly and pensioners. Despite assurances from Eskom and provincial leaders that power would be restored, approximately 160 households remain without electricity since June last year when their transformer failed.

Eskom, South Africa's primary electricity supplier, has linked the failure to illegal connections bypassing meter boxes. The utility company's Gauteng spokesperson, Amanda Qithi, explained that failed transformers due to illicit usage lead to disconnections, with those involved required to pay a "remedial fee" before restoration can occur.

In this instance, despite residents reaching the stipulated 60% payment threshold for reinstallation, delays continue. Qithi elaborated that the process has been held back due to the ongoing installation of smart meters and other essential equipment, necessary to "normalise" the network.

The situation has prompted the involvement of Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi, who visited Dobsonville in November and promised that the affected households would celebrate the festive season with electricity. However, his spokesperson, Sizwe Pamla, cited the holiday period and staff availability as reasons for the broken promise, leaving residents, quite literally, in the cold.

Many residents, including the elderly, have dutifully paid their electricity bills, like 84-year-old Jemina Sibeko, who lives with two grandchildren and has records of her payments. Their compliance underscores the urgency and frustration felt by those wrongfully penalized for infractions they did not commit.

Discontent spilled over as residents took their grievances to the ANC headquarters at Luthuli House, only to be redirected back to Eskom to resolve their plight. With no clear timeline for when their power will be restored, Dobsonville occupants remain uncertain of their electricity's return, as Eskom commits to provide updates.

The plight of the Dobsonville residents not only highlights the struggles faced by communities grappling with inadequate infrastructure and service delivery but also the complexities of addressing illegal electricity connections amidst a broader energy crisis in South Africa. It is yet another chapter in the ongoing narrative of the nation's energy challenges, with both government and electricity authorities under scrutiny for their handling of the situation.

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