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Riverpark protesters released

NORWOOD - Seventeen Riverpark protesters were released from Norwood Police Station after they were arrested for illegal gathering.

Seventeen Riverpark protesters were released from Norwood Police Station after they were arrested for an illegal gathering.

According to Riverpark Residents’ Association chairperson Tsietsi Kungoane, who was also arrested, the charges against them were dropped by the Hillbrow Magistrate’s Court.

Kungoane stated that the protests followed a week-long door-to-door visit by the MMC for Environment and Infrastructure Services Matshidiso Mfikoe, and City Power managing director, Sicelo Xulu.

The visits began on 10 July in Riverpark in order to assess and resolve electricity meter issues in 85 units, which had led to public protests in the past few weeks.

At the time of the visit, Mfikoe stated that, following numerous meetings with all the stakeholders, she had decided to see the issues that the community were complaining about for herself.

“We are assessing all the technical problems relating to the pre-paid metering system, in conjunction with City Power and the contractors who installed the meters. We want to ensure that problems relating to faulty electricity meters, illegal electricity connections and solar water geysers are sorted (out),” she explained.

Kungoane said the residents expected changes after the visit, but there were no improvements, so they decided to protest again.

“We asked them (the officials) to halt the installation of the meters but they are continuing with the process and we will not stop the protests until the problems are resolved. The MMC’s operation didn’t yield any results. She just came here with many politicians but nothing has changed,” he said. Kungoane added the new metering system was expensive and the community, who were mostly unemployed, could not afford it.

During her visit, Mfikoe conceded that there were technical mistakes in the installation of the meters but added that illegal connections were also a big problem. “In some units we found that electricity boxes were tampered (with). Also, in other units we found 27 shacks which could have led to the high consumption. We also disconnected illegal connections and the owners will be disciplined,” she added.

She expressed that there was a need to educate residents about electricity use and that there was no proper consultation with the community prior to the installation of the meters. “We are encouraging people to communicate adequately so everybody will understand the need for metering,” she said.

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