The truth about Soweto load-shedding versus rich suburbs

A false claim is being peddled on social media that Soweto is getting less load-shedding than affluent and middle-class suburbs in South Africa.

The posts have primarily been spread via Twitter and WhatsApp, accompanied by a screenshot from EskomSePush of the outage schedule for an area called “Soweto (3)”.

Several users were furious that Eskom was supposedly cutting Soweto slack despite owing the utility billions in unpaid electricity bills.

As of September 2021, the township owed Eskom R7.5 billion after the utility wrote off R5.3 billion it deemed uncollectible.

“Interesting logic. Those that don’t pay, don’t get load shed. Or is it a case of those will damage the most infrastructure, don’t get load shed?” one user stated.

Some even accused the ANC and Eskom of using load-shedding to buy election votes.

The screenshots below show the load-shedding schedule for the suburb called “Soweto (3)” on EskomSePush for Wednesday, 21 September 2022, and Thursday, 22 September 2022.

It shows that the area only gets load-shedding from stage 4 and upwards, and only up to four hours during Stage 5 and Stage 6.

While the above screenshot has not been doctored, it is not the load-shedding schedule of Soweto in Johannesburg.

Each of the suburbs listed on EskomSePush includes the name of the electricity distributor for that area, typically the municipality or Eskom Direct.

EskomSePush lists three main load-shedding schedules for Soweto suburbs under Eskom Direct or the City of Johannesburg.

Their schedules are shown in the screenshots below and are similar to other suburbs in Gauteng.

The suburb of “Soweto (3)” clearly shows its distributor is the Ethekwini municipality in KwaZulu-Natal, not Johannesburg or Eskom Direct.

Although confusing, a quick Google search reveals there is a small neighbourhood called Soweto in the township of Inanda, located a few kilometres to the northwest of Durban.

The reason this area is not getting as much load-shedding as Gauteng suburbs is well understood.

Ethekwini has been spared much of the last few months’ load-shedding due to the severe flooding that hit the area in April 2022, following heavy rains.

The damage had made the municipality’s electrical network more dangerous and susceptible to faults and trips, especially if power is constantly switched on and off.

Flooding following KwaZulu-Natal’s heavy rain storms in April 2022

As a result, most suburbs only get load-shed from stage 4 and upwards, and at a significantly lower severity than the rest of the country.

A select few of the particularly hard-hit areas and those with some key businesses don’t get load-shedding at all.

There is no difference between the load-shedding implemented in poor and rich suburbs.

More affluent areas in Ethekwini, such as Umhlanga, Queensburgh, and Glenwood, had similar load-shedding schedules.

Google Maps screenshot showing location of Soweto suburb in Inanda, KwaZulu-Natal

South Africa has several towns and places that have the same or similar names, including:

  • Middelburg — Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape have towns called Middelburg.
  • Pietersburg and Pietermaritzburg — The first is the former name of Polokwane, the capital of Limpopo, while the latter is the capital of KwaZulu-Natal.
  • Hartbeesfontein and Hartbeespoort — The former is a settlement near Klerksdorp in the North West. The latter is on the border between North West and Gauteng and hosts a big dam.
  • Somerset East and Somerset West — Although they might sound like two sides of the same town, they are over 770km apart.
  • Ventersdorp, Ventersburg, Venterstad — Three different towns located in the North West, Free State, and the Eastern Cape, respectively.
  • Vrede, Vredenburg, and Vredendal — Again, three different towns. The first is in the Free State and has a well-known failed dairy farm, while the latter two are in the Western Cape.

Now read: Without a bailout Eskom must hike electricity prices over 30%

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The truth about Soweto load-shedding versus rich suburbs