Tensions between Eskom and residents of Extension 14 in Diepsloot simmered on Tuesday after the power utility dismantled illegal connections and tampered meters, leaving the informal settlement without electricity.
Eskom launched the “Energy Management” campaign in Gauteng, as it says that there illegal connections cause equipment failure and network overloading, which in turn causes transformers and sub stations to explode in high density areas.
As part of the campaign, Eskom will conduct “audits” – the first of which was in Diepsloot on Tuesday. Eskom staff were accompanied by the Johannesburg Metro Police Department, the South African Police Service, and the Red Ants.
Gauteng Eskom Spokesperson, Reneilwe Semenya, said cutting connections was not a sustainable solution but something had to be done about the illegal connections in the city because it was weighing on the network.
She said aim of the campaign was to create awareness about the severe impact on infrastructure and to safeguard the network.
“Unfortunately, in instances where illegal connections are happening, they have put a huge burden, not only on Eskom infrastructure, but infrastructure in general. If you look at the water, sewer and other services that are being provided by other municipalities and service providers, they are being hugely impacted as a result of this.”
According to Eskom, millions of rands have been lost. In the Dieplsoot, for example, area it had identified 80 failed transformers and replaced 12 transformers so far. Another 48 will be replaced within a month and 20 more will have to be purchased.
In recent months, the utility has been implementing a so-called load reduction in parts of the country to avoid network overloading in high-density areas, Semenya said.
She added that Eskom had identified other hotspots where further audits would be conducted. These areas included Katlehong and Winterveld.
Residents say the power utility continuously fail to meet their needs and have therefore resorted to taking matters into their own hands through illegal connections.
Tshishiwe Manenzlo a resident in the informal settlement said they have been battling with Eskom for more than 15 years to be connected to the electricity grid in the area. He said if this matter was not addressed, illegal connections would continue unabated.
“I feel lost without electricity. I won’t be able to charge my phone to check the time for when I need to be ready for work. This will cause me to lose my job because I will oversleep.
“Our meat will go rotten in our fridges. We don’t know who our councillor is in this area; it is as if we have been forgotten about.
“We have no idea about the way forward because our officials continue to fail us. It is only when they need our votes when they pay attention to our demands,” Manenzlo said.
Another resident in the area, Elizabeth Phiri, said electricity was not the only issues.
She said they lived in a “dump” filled with sewage and they often had to collect water from a tap far from their homes.
“We live in fear when there is no electricity. Without street lights we cannot collect water at night and we fear being raped. We plead with Eskom to install electricity boxes as we are prepared to pay for electricity if needs to be,” Phiri said.