Soweto residents lose first round in battle over electricity

Wanted court to force Eskom to reconnect them, and to cap tariffs at R100 pm.
Residents stand in protest after judge dismissed case on the grounds that it lacked urgency. Image: Supplied

Several hundred Soweto residents got blown out of the Johannesburg High Court on Wednesday, after asking the judge for an urgent order compelling Eskom to reconnect their electricity and cap their monthly payments at R100.

Acting Judge Marcus Senyatsi threw the case out of court on the grounds that the case lacked urgency. He also said the court application, prepared by King Sibiya of the Lungelo Lethu Human Rights Foundation, looked more like a petition.

Read: Soweto residents to take Eskom to court

Eskom said it found it difficult to respond to some of the community’s allegations and asked that the matter be struck from the roll.

Many of the residents have had their electricity disconnected for more than six months. The case must now be placed on the ordinary roll and await a court date, probably well into 2020.

“Of course we are disappointed by the judge’s decision,” says Sibiya. “I was denied the right to argue the case for the residents of Soweto, most of them sick or elderly, because I am not a lawyer. We regard this as a denial of access to justice and this is something that we intend to take up with the Department of Justice.

“There is no question that this is an urgent matter, given the escalating service delivery protests that are happening around Soweto.”

Sibiya and other community members were frustrated at the judge’s adherence to court formalities, rather than the substance of the case and its broader impact on human rights.

Read: Electricity: Who pays what

This week actor Patrick Shai was injured when shot with rubber bullets by police, as he tried to stop the police from using force against community members protesting service disconnection.

Service protests have erupted in several parts of Soweto in recent months. Eskom’s latest annual report suggests arrears of R18 billion from Soweto, out of total arrears of about R40 billion.

Soweto community activist Monde Mngqibisa says frustrations are growing in Soweto, as most of the applicants in the case have prepaid meters but have been disconnected because Eskom has failed to do basic maintenance. The court papers also suggest that some of the meters have malfunctioned or caught fire. “We are not giving up,” says Mngqibisa. “We will regroup and re-present the case.”

‘Group punishment’

Mngqibisa says he has not been affected by the disconnections but approached Eskom on behalf of community members. Some residents were told by Eskom to get their neighbours to start paying their electricity before their homes would be reconnected, which is a form of group punishment, according to Sibiya.

Moneyweb spoke to several of the applicants in the case, who dismissed the notion that Eskom disconnected their electricity for being in arrears. “That’s not true,” says Sello Mahsiloane, one of the applicants. “We are on prepaid meters and the reason we are disconnected is because the mini sub-station Eskom has [has] been broken for months and has not been repaired.

“Yet [President Cyril] Ramaphosa’s house nearby has electricity. How is that possible?

“My child failed school because there is no light at night for studying.”

Mashiloane is a diabetic and says he is forced to use candles for light and a “gel” stove for cooking. Martha Sedibe has a two-week-old grandchild living with her, and has been forced to use candles and a paraffin stove for six months since Eskom cut off power in the area in June. She is also on a prepaid meter and normally spent R300 to R400 a month on electricity.

Pamela Thobela of White City in Soweto says parts were stolen from an electricity sub-station in her area several months ago, and residents in her area have been without power since then.

Sibiya says he is in discussion with several legal organisations to provide representation for the next phase of the battle to restore lights to Soweto.

Read: Army protects Eskom workers as they remove illegal connections 



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Most of the residents of Soweto is sick or elderly.


No more nor less than the rest of the country.

Yep, the entitlement mentality started when people felt they have the right to own the whole of south Africa and pushed everyone else to live in squalor using group areas act and land acts, in Soweto we are sharing 400 square meters with 4 families while the entitled ones live in cities with large stands…

And yet here we are a quarter of a century later and no progress has been made. I wonder what happened to all of that money the taxpayers forked over for “redistribution and development”. HINT: Check the bank accounts of the so-called struggle heroes. If you voted ANC then you only have yourself to blame. Elections have consequences.

Musa8190…. I am a white South African. All white South Africans have ancestry that were persecuted at some stage in their history. Religious persecution, concentraction camps, holocaust, genocide, etc. You name it….

Of the thousands of white South Africans I know, not one EVER blames the past for their failures.

Do you think the Germans blame two world wars where MILLIONS of their citizens were wiped out for their failures?….ABSOLUTELY NEVER….

…and it is all by design, The apartheid era created this. Like it or not it is a cancer that will destroy this country… as it brought down the National Party rule. Now it is gunning for the ANC.

Respectfully, why stop at Apartheid? If you’re going to blame the past, or someone or something in the past, why stop at Apartheid specifically? Why not roll it back to British colonialism? Or the Portuguese exploration of a silk route to India from the 1400’s? Why stop there even? Why not blame it on the Reformation in Europe, or for that matter Catholicism? Or even further back…. the Bantu expansion ( ) displacing the traditional inhabitants of Southern Africa? Point is – blaming the past does nothing and every race and tribe on earth would do well to act a little less self-righteous and stop posturing as if the sun shines from their behinds. Blame is in fact a tool used by the weak, the lazy and the dishonest to explain and justify their own failures with the hope that the excuse will in fact be good enough, not realizing that the best excuse in the world will never be worth as much as a little action.

It is their way, always blame someone else.

When I was farming if a tool went missing or if gumboots were missing always someone else’s fault, that is the way they are. never accountable for anything, hence the collective BS we get from them.

Before my meter even turns every month I hand over >R630 to City of Joburg for “Network and Service Charges”. Letting them pay a flat fee of R100pm or R150pm is a slap in the face to the rest of us law abiding residents.

If you want to know how much disposable income Sowetans have, go look at the SAB beer volumes consumed over every weekend. It’s no joke.

Ban all beer trucks and let’s see how long it will take to pay

Shame-so its ok to steal from the taxpayers if you feel bad then but pay for your TV and beer.

What does a writer with background in mining and investment know about this issue. Obviously not much except to produce mindless politically correct statements like The people being frustrated with the judge’s adherence to the court formalities instead of the substance of the matter and the impact on the people.What BS.Typical brainless millennial writing.

What hasn’t been mentioned as that constant maintenance is needed mainly due to illegal connections blowing up transformers. The community needs to stop the illegal connections first . Army and police can’t get near these places .

As Tito said to his voters and supporters “The user must pay” principle must apply. Same as the toll roads, not so?
cANCer, you created the culture of non payment, you sort it out!!!

By the way, what are you going do about the 25 year payment holiday that was enjoyed by the residents of Soweto?

And more importantly how fair and equitable is this towards those do indeed pay? (Some are more equal than others ……..)

This will never happen. Unfortunately theft is sas culture

They claim that they don’t have money for services, but nearly all the houses and shacks has a DSTV dish?????

I am not about to justify their financial choices, but just for the record, the cheapest DSTV package (Easy View) is R29 per month.

Just like how some people will drown their sorrows in alcohol and drugs. TV can have that appeal of allowing one to forget their miseries and escape their depression albeit only for a moment.

When I see a ‘dish’ on a shack, it’s providing more than just entertainment. It could be a temporary escape from sad realities that these people are faced with.

Alemen, yes, I see your point. BUT, life, for most of humanity on this planet is dismal. Does that mean that one group can refuse to pay, forcing other’s to pay in their stead, just because life is hard? Who says their situation is better? Surely you can’t transfer your responsibility in that way. Surely you can’t mess up the system for everybody (to the tune of R18b in their case), because you are to myopic to see that your action is hurting the rest of the country. I have sympathy for the downtrodden and would love to see everybody being in a position to enjoy all available fruits, but the socialist utopia has made it abundantly clear that it never works. In fact, every socialist experiment comes after a capitalist system made the money, which the socialists then dish out, bankrupting everybody, until we are forced into capitalism again. Electricity is not a life necessity. There are billions of people living without electricity, so if you want the luxury of having electricity, then pay for it… in full.

Fully agree with you Batman. I was just highlighting the other viewpoint.

The answer to most economic (and political) problems is Capitalism. By definition Capitalism is ‘providing the best solutions at the least cost’ – who ever can do this gets rewarded with capital flowing towards him / her. They take the risk, they reap the capital rewards while society benefits from the capitalist’s solutions. Ultimately it is a win-win.

Socialism leads to ‘everyone owning everything’, which essentially means there is no accountability and responsibility because ultimately no-one owns anything. This then leads to the corruption we see. As it was once famously mentioned, ‘the problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money’.

Unfortunately South African politics is divided on racial lines rather than policies. We have an uneducated mass that can easily be manipulated and so our collective challenges are even greater.

The solution is jobs, as Trump is doing in the US. People will then be off the social grants and take care of themselves. If SA can collectively address the 29% unemployment rate, middle class (who pays for everything) will rise, crime would drop, people will pay for services, etc. Easier said than done though.

And half of those shacks have a new Beemer or Merc parked outside…

Apparently an easily induced spike in the voltage will sort out all of the illegally connected appliances. – No DB board, no meter, no trip switch= fried appliances
End of problem (used in India to solve the same problem)
food for thought?

You want to burn Soweto to the ground?

Yes please.

Its already being done in places north of Pretoria – the lady who works for us had all her globes fused. Luckily her fridge wasn’t switched on. Her neighbors lost fridges, stoves and a big screen TV. Feel a little sorry for them but…..

Come to Roodepoort and have a look at the Princess squatter camp on Main Reef Road. In June this year CoJ went in and ripped out all the illegal overhead connections. Twenty four hours later new shiny wire replaced the old dull wire … driving through I thought that a space ship had landed as reflections bounced off the shiny wire with a erie effect.

CoJ has not been back since … which is why I too have to fork out >R650 per month before I consume 1 kWh of electricity and I am tire of it.

Why should they be treated differently? Surely the same must apply elsewhere in which case nobody would pay for the services. That would be unsustainable. Prepaid meters is the way to go.

You are absolutely correct and this is what makes it a meaningless debate. The country cannot afford to give free electricity, healthcare, education etc etc to the majority of people, simple fact of life.

What is needed, and will not occur, is the emergence of a breed of “Thatcherite” politicians that have the ***** to explain to the people that 2+2 cannot = 5.

We all know that “baby steps” in this direction would be to allow the unions to close down SAA and save the fiscus billions but it will not happen.

The issue is that many or most of the people in the court case already have prepaid meters which they claim means that they pay for the electricity consumed. However, they do not explain why the prepaid meters have malfunctioned and in some cases caught fire. I am fairly sure that the reason for this is that they have bypassed to meters to enable them to get free electricity. So in itself prepaid meters are not the only solution to the problem, it has to be prepaid meters plus enforcement measures to prosecute people who fiddle with the meters.

What is wrong with using candles and a paraffin stove? People did it for centuries. Take one comparison with other African countries, in Tanzania only 32.8 % of the population in 2016, had access to electricty according to the World Bank.

They must pay like the rest of us. Who do they think they are?

If they want electricity why did they vote the criminal ANC in, who have systematically destroyed Eskom? You get what you vote for!

cANCer as the saying goes “jy het n lat vir jou eie gat gepluk””

After the first wave of anti-´entitlement´ schadenfreude, the article is actually quite painful to read.

The residents do not have the basic grasp of how the system works, how to appeal to the courts (there are plenty of NGOs and university units who could have provided legal aid) — when people feel unheard and marginalised, they turn to violence — or WHY they should pay. They do not even understand that if they continue voting ANC, the ”never-joined-the-struggle-to-be-poor” nomenklatura will continue treating them as dirty voters; in a way worse than the Nats.

Unless Ramaphosa frees the country from the economic and educational shackles of union capture, the plight of the ”wretched of the earth” will get worse.

Exactly what 25 years of a disastrous, dysfunctional, basically non-existent education system brought.

Many are missing the point – their claim was THROWN out by the functioning judiciary. Yes, this was a bunch of leeches but glass half full I think?

The court should have made each one pay their accounts up to date no matter how backdated the debt.

Residents of Soweto are not special and must not be treated as such.They must pay or be cut off.Simple!
In rural south africa,where there is extremme poverty and high unemployment,ordinary & eldery citizens are not getting electricity for free.
No free rides for anyone.

The users of electricity pay already less per kw hour, the lesser they use. You have a responsibility to the poor, but now things want to get out of hand.

Newsflash Mr. Mashiloane, Zimbabwe also had electricity before moving backwards and started using candles again.
That is the way in Africa, stop complaining.
Unless you wake up and stand up against your ANC, you will be robbed blind forever.

Just love those posters. They all “DEMAND / WANT” free stuff. This government has really created an entitlement MONSTER.

User (ANC members) don’t pay system.

The illegal connections blowing up transformers is a problem across the country.

The lack of respect for law in this country is its downfall.

End of comments.




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