While Eskom is drowning in debt and struggling to make ends meet, Soweto residents say they want their debt written off and to only pay R100 per month for unlimited electricity.
Eskom currently supplies 135,000 Soweto residents with power, but only 12% of these customers pay for electricity.
This non-payment has seen Soweto’s debt to Eskom increase from R3.6 billion in 2014 to its current level of R18 billion.
To alleviate this debt burden, Eskom is threatening to disconnect non-paying customers, remove illegal connections, and move more houses to prepaid electricity.
Soweto residents fighting back
Soweto residents, however, are having none of Eskom’s debt-collection and disconnection plans and are demanding that the power utility writes off their debt.
These residents argue that they cannot afford to pay for electricity, let alone pay off the money they owe to Eskom.
Instead, the residents proposed that they be charged a flat rate of R100 per month for electricity, regardless of how much power they use.
“We understand that Eskom needs revenue so that it fulfils its mandate. The people of Soweto are prepared to negotiate the value as long as Eskom can agree to the principle of a flat rate,” said Soweto resident Mxolisi Mdluli.
Illegal connections and the fight against prepaid meters
To fight back against disconnections due to non-payment, residents launched Operation Khanyisa, which sees trained local members illegally reconnecting houses for no charge.
There is also a strong movement against prepaid electricity meters, which Soweto residents argue are making electricity use unaffordable.
Activist Seth Mazibuko led a protest march against Eskom’s prepaid meters, saying these meters put residents under financial strain.
Carte Blanche investigation
The video below from Carte Blanche provides an overview of the problem.