With one in five South Africans living on or below the poverty line – and the unemployment rate reaching a record high – thousands of families in different parts of Soweto say they are dependent on social grants, which leads to residents battling to make ends meet.
According to Sun Valley, Pimville, resident Thokozile Nkwanyana, social grants were not enough to cover expensive electricity charges.
“We live off my two grandchildren’s social grant which is not enough. My two children lost their jobs due to Covid-19,” she said.
“With just R900 in the household, how can we pay for electricity that costs more than R1 000? Eskom should just really sympathise with us.”
Nkwanyana, 59, was speaking after angry Soweto residents from Orlando, Pimville, White City, Meadowlands, Protea, Dube and members of the Soweto tourism industry held a picket outside the Eskom offices in Sunninghill, Johannesburg, demanding reconnection of electricity in some areas where they had been without electricity for months.
The residents said they had had enough of their electricity crisis as a number of deaths had occurred within the community, due to either the cold weather or power cuts, and would force Eskom that to negotiate with them over the area’s lack of electricity.
Chair of Soweto Tourism Thato Mothopeng said their problems were intertwined as the electricity crisis had caused a huge problem of unemployment.
He said the tourism industry in the area had taken strain due to the pandemic and now is basically dying because of power cuts.
“When people are angry in the community, they start to block roads and burn tyres, which creates a lot of problems for businesses,” Mothopeng said.
“The local economy is then interrupted. We are in the middle of a pandemic and people have lost their jobs due to Covid and now we cannot even employ locals because we cannot pay them due to power cuts and not being able to generate an income ourselves.”
Eskom’s Amanda Qithi said they had plans to replace the Soweto infrastructure and install more prepaid meters. “The issues around the overloading of equipment, the illegal connections and the bypassing of meters and people operating on our networks has really derailed us,” she said.