Ivory park residents say they are fed up with lengthy electricity blackouts and are their wits end with power giant Eskom.
Residents were complaining to City of Joburg mayor Mpho Moerane during an oversight visit to the area.
The City has embarked on an accelerated service delivery programme in areas that include Rabie Ridge and Ivory Park, in the north of Johannesburg, after complaints that up to 40 Eskom transformers were damaged and left unrepaired for five months.
The Ivory Park oversight visit comes just days after the mayor boasted about signing a new Power Purchase Agreement with the privately-owned Kelvin Power Station to increase the City’s capacity to supply electricity to Johannesburg’s north-eastern suburbs, including Greenstone, Kew, Lombardy, Alexandra, Melrose, Rosebank and Houghton.
During the visit, it was clear from the residents’ complaints that their relationship with Eskom had broken down.
The residents insisted the power utility had refused to respond to customer service queries and were not attending to reports of transformers being vandalised or damaged due to overloading and illegal connections in the area.
“The residents have indicated that they are not against paying for electricity, however, they were concerned that Eskom does not respond to their customer queries,” said Moerane.
They also accused Eskom’s senior regional technician of being biased towards poor communities in Region A, in favour of affluent areas, who they claim would never have to wait five months for electricity to be restored.
Among the irate and frustrated community members were elderly women who complained that they did not owe Eskom, but they were subjected to living in darkness for months.
They said their calls to Eskom to repair their damaged transformers had fallen on death ears.
But the mayor also told residents the leading cause of the constant transformer damage was overloading due to properties with backroom tenants being serviced by a transformer with a limited capacity.
“A property owner with an additional two to three families who are backroom tenants on their properties need to apply for bigger capacity transformers to supply their homes, to cater for the added demand that is heavy on the current transformers and causing them to fail or explode,” he said.
The residents compared their plight to that of Soweto, which has been experiencing serious electricity problems that are compounded by cable theft and sub-stations that have been blown up. Some parts of the township, including the Nomzamo informal settlement, have had no electricity for over two years, while areas like Chiawelo and Naledi, have been plagued by power outages.
Residents also complained about Eskom’s R6 000 reconnection fee and accused the parastatal of “only giving them attention when they march to its head office in Megawatt Park.”
Moerane, while acknowledging their plight, told the community members they were also expected to play their part and do away with illegal connections.
“The City has committed to working with Eskom to avail transformers where the utility has stock challenges that have resulted in the inability to repair or replace damaged transformers speedily,” promised Moerane.
“We are currently looking at a long-term solution to the concerns of lack of sufficient capacity by Eskom to service Johannesburg residents in Ivory Park, Diepsloot, Orange Farm, Finetown, as well as Sandton and Soweto.”
He assured residents that their lives should improve once the City takes over the electricity supply of Johannesburg communities from Eskom.
“This is purely because the City has already proven to understand the local customer in how we deliver municipal services and are paid for them. The takeover will also see to the introduction of an alternative energy mix that includes smart metres, solar and gas,” Moerane said.
But Eskom on Friday denied reports that it had entered into a deal with the City to take over the supply power to some of the City’s communities.
Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said the power utility had only signed a memorandum of understanding on how it is “going to work to develop the business case for the proposed transfer”.
“The municipality must still do the due [diligence] on their part to confirm that what we have proposed to them is acceptable,” explained Mantshantsha.
“They are in the process of appointing transaction advisors to assist them in the development of the business case.
“Any possible transaction is still years away if it ever gets implemented.”
Moerane is expected to continue the weekly oversight visits to other regions of Johannesburg and promised to return to give communities feedback and monitor progress in areas already covered by the accelerated service delivery programme.