Eskom’s decision to not restore power to areas that have repeated blackouts due to illegal connections, meter tampering and bypassing has caused an uproar, with Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba calling the “blanket punishment” a human rights violation.
Soweto has the highest unpaid Eskom account of close to R17 billion, almost half of the total national debt.
The Eskom electricity blackout has left both paying and illegally connected Soweto residents freezing in the winter darkness, with others complaining the blackout was ruining their appliances.
On Wednesday Eskom said it would “only restore supply to legal and paying customers in the areas, on condition that the community allows safe access to Eskom staff to conduct audits and remove illegal connections”.
“If we do not conduct the audits, we run the risk of continued failures without dealing with the root cause. In some areas, Eskom technicians have not been allowed to conduct these audits which result in repeated failures of equipment making power restoration a wasteful exercise,” Eskom’s statement read.
Mashaba said yesterday he had written to Eskom to request a meeting.
“While the City of Joburg would not normally seek to interfere in or instruct Eskom on how to conduct its affairs, I feel compelled to enter the fray and intervene on behalf of paying residents who face unfair punishment at the hands of Eskom due the actions of a few residents,” Mashaba said.
“The City of Joburg cannot sit by idly and watch Eskom engage in such unethical and unlawful conduct. We have a duty to protect our law-abiding residents who are affected by this conduct.”
Mashaba noted cutting off electricity amounted to “a blanket punishment, and taken to their logical conclusion, are a violation of residents’ rights as well as a gross abuse of power”.
Eskom confirmed to The Citizen yesterday it was “in discussion with the Johannesburg mayor with regards to the meeting”.
The cash-strapped utility said the increasing number of repeated equipment failures was “primarily due to illegal connections leading to overloading which results in failure of transformers and mini-substations. This is exacerbated by meter tampering, electricity theft and vandalism of infrastructure”.