Christmas without lights? Residents concerned as SA load shedding hits

With load shedding hitting South Africa, a community in Doornkop, Soweto has taken life without power as a norm.

According to public statements, Soweto residents owe Eskom an amount of R7.3 billion ($470 million), recovering from the R12.3 billion it owed last year.

Beginning of August 2021 five streets sharing the same transformer faced a power outage. The outage was not faced by the entire neighborhood, causing a lot of disputes amongst neighbours. It has been 3 months without any power or help from Eskom, according to Doornkop residents.

Community members say two petitions have been sent to Eskom and no concrete response was given. The first petition was issued out through the local community counselor and there have been speculations that it did not reach Eskom’s offices. The counselor’s defense was that he emailed the petition however Eskom did not receive it. The second petition was issued out beginning of October and was taken to Eskom’s offices in Mathole by three male residents who have been active in finding a solution to their power outage problem.

One of the residents, Bennet Molaba, has been a Doornkop resident since 1995. Molaba mentioned that he stayed 10 years without electricity when he first got to the township and is devastated that besides Eskom’s lack of service delivery, his neighbours are acting as a barrier between him and having electricity. Molaba says that the reasons why the unaffected residents are disputing the affected streets getting electricity is because fixing the transformer “affects their electricity”.

There’s an informal settlement seperated by a road next to Doornkop , the residents in that area do not pay water nor electricity bills, therefore get their electricity illegal from streetlights and connecting cables to nearby power boxes. Apart from load shedding being the reason why they don’t have electricity Molaba also strongly believes that the informal settlement contributed a lot to the affected streets not having electricity.

Electrical boxes (transformers) can only power a few homes, and with an overabundance of illegal connections, a community has been torn apart by the pointing of fingers.

Doornkop faces a “same script, different cast” situation with electricity, meaning that the same neighbours who are fighting the affected streets also faced the same problem a year ago.

There seems to be hope with having electricity for the first time in months for the affected residents. Molaba says that affected residents came together in finding someone who will fix their electricity since Eskom is delaying.

Will it be a Christmas without lights? Saturday can only decide for the desperate residents of Doornkop.

By Lineo Khabele for African View News