Several factors are responsible for the set back in Eskom. One of such is the over 17billion owed the entity.
In a detailed documentary by City Press, On Wednesday morning, as load shedding hit the township of 1.3 million residents, small businesses were losing money, and children had been sent home by their teachers, who said they couldn’t teach in a blackout.
While some people City Press spoke to paid their electricity bills and knew that their nonpaying neighbours were contributing to the crisis, others were steadfast in their refusal to pay for the power they used.
I pay because we have to
Sibongile Nyathi (40), who has been selling kota in Rockville for seven years, says she pays her electricity bills because, if she doesn’t, her small business will suffer.
“I can’t live without electricity, so it is important for me to pay. I am encouraging people of Soweto to also pay for their electricity,” she said.
Nyathi says that if everyone was up to date with their bills, Soweto wouldn’t owe Eskom R17 billion, and the blackouts they experienced last week would be a thing of the past.
“This is no longer an Eskom issue – it’s everyone’s responsibility to pay for electricity every month,” she said.
Nyathi says that, despite the fact that she pays her bills every month, her business suffered last week because of those who refuse to cough up the cash.
“Usually, I would use 50 to 60 loaves of bread to make kota, but since the load shedding, I have only used 10 loaves. This is really worrying because, as far as I know, the load shedding will last until July,” she said.
“I know many people who would rather spend their money on expensive clothes and shoes instead of paying for their electricity. Malls are always jam-packed with people doing their shopping, yet they owe Eskom a fortune.”
Nyathi says she would like to encourage every household to contribute at least R200 every month to pay Eskom.
“Imagine if every household can commit to this – we can make a huge difference and maybe we can recoup half of the R17 billion we are currently owing in Soweto.”
My parents don’t pay
Jonn-Claude Chikane (24), a professional cyclist who lives in Tladi, says electricity is expensive and that’s why his parents owe Eskom and are unable to pay their bill.
“Let’s consider that, currently, South Africa’s unemployment rate is sitting at 27.5%. Clearly, people are struggling to put food on the table for their families. So paying electricity should be the last problem right now,” he said.
“Eskom should install prepaid electricity meters to recover the R17 billion debt Soweto owes. This is the only solution for the Sowetans. As it stands, people are billed every month for their usage, so it becomes tricky to be aware of what they have used that particular month. If we all use prepaid meters, we will learn to save and use electricity responsibly.”
Chikane did not talk about Eskom trying to install prepaid metres, only to be met with violent protests.
The discouraged youngster says he’s not sure whether he is going to vote in the general election in May.
“The former president and those involved in state capture are the ones to be blamed for this load shedding. We are in this mess because of them,” Chikane said.
I can’t afford to pay
Elijah Mthembu (54), a self-employed father of three from Zola, says he doesn’t pay for electricity because he cannot afford to.
He says that, if government creates more jobs for those who are unemployed, people may feel more encouraged to pay for their electricity.
“How are we expected to pay electricity when only three out of 10 people who live in Soweto are working? How do you expect people to pay electricity when we are poor and unemployed?” he asked.
Mthembu lives in a rented shack and says that, as a South African citizen, he should not be raising his children in a tiny shack.
“I am failing to build a home for my children and you expect me to pay electricity?”
I pay because mum’s life depends on it
Boitumelo Ngubane (38) from Protea Glen lives with her sick mother. She says she pays her Eskom bill because electricity is vital to her family.
“If I don’t pay, my mother, who has a heart condition, will suffer because I have to prepare fresh food for her every day. So I urge people to pay so that we can save lives,” she said.
The other day, she said, the power was cut off and they had to go to bed with empty stomachs, which made her furious.
She does feel that load shedding should be a national responsibility.
“Although Soweto owes billions, it is unfair that they blame Sowetans only,” she said.
I don’t pay; it’s unaffordable
“I don’t pay electricity because I don’t want to – it’s because of affordability,” says Nokuthula Komane from Rockville.
She says times are tough, the economy is “really bad” and they are struggling to feed their families, and asks where they should get the money from to pay for their electricity.
“Load shedding is not only an Eskom issue, but a national responsibility, too. Soweto is overpopulated and the rate of unemployment is very high. Eskom has to come up with a quick plan as soon possible,” she said.
I don’t pay because I’m a pensioner
A 73-year-old pensioner, who asked not to be named, says she will not pay for electricity because she is raising her three grandchildren. With her state pension, she struggles just to put food on the table.
“My pension money isn’t enough to raise my granddaughters, so should we starve because our priority should be electricity?” she asked.
“Growing up, there was no electricity, so if they decide to switch off the lights one day for good, we would still survive.”