Mabopane homes still languish in dark
Lightning strike on transformer in November left 176 households without power …and the wait continues
POWER has yet to be restored to 176 households in Mabopane Block U Extension since it went off in November.
One of the affected residents Elizabeth Maponya said their woes began when a transformer was struck by lightning.
“In December we had a protest, held several meetings in which we discussed how we could get Eskom to replace the transformer.
“We complained to the councillor about the situation and Eskom refused to restore power, citing rampant illegal connections.”
She said eventually they showed up to do the audit into which houses had illegal connections last month and confiscated meter boxes where there were illegal connections but had not audited all the 176 houses.
“Christmas came and passed without them coming. It was an awful festive season.”
“We threw away a lot of food; meat was filled with worms and flies. Fridges have been stinking. We are basically working from hand to mouth.”
She said she had spent so much money on takeaways: “I didn’t even see where my bonus went. I am always using public transport which is money as well. Through frustration and desperation, we have considered even paying R120 as residents every month so we can at least pay 50% and have our power back. But why must we bleed when we have been paying and not part of the defaulting group?”
Most residents have resorted to using cooler boxes to keep certain products cool and paraffin stoves to cook.
In a bid to cross over with power restored, they protested again on the 29th (of December): “… but we were not even given attention or a chance to voice our grievances.”
Councillor in the area, Tshepo Motaung, said following engagements with Eskom the utility informed him that fines of R6 500 had been imposed on 105 illegally connected households and they would not restore the power until 50% of the fines had been paid.
“The bulk of people here are unemployed. Where will they get that money from? And in the meantime others are suffering while they are not owing and not illegally connected.”
In the first week of this month, Eskom informed the councillor that the transformer would not be delivered until the audit was done and they could not prioritise Mabopane as they had many areas to cover.
Motaung said he was saddened by the crisis as he understood the frustration from residents who were not in the wrong, but stay in perpetual darkness.
He said he had been in contact with Eskom which insisted it would not budge until 50% of the fines had been paid.
“I understand that illegal connections are bad, but why bunch legally connected houses with the illegal ones. It is not fair and our request just fell on deaf ears.”
He said he had had several follow-up meetings but, to date, there was still no transformer delivered.
“For now I am awaiting advice if we can take Eskom to court on the matter as residents need this basic (service),” said Motaung.
Maponya said she had just registered for a course with Unisa and had to settle for burning the midnight oil by using candles to study, which has been a strain. “I am constantly late, I have to ask others to iron our clothes, charge phones and pay them while I am not illegally connected. This has been a horrible three months we have been treated unfairly.”
Eskom, meanwhile, said it would only service the area once customers had paid the fines that were issued for tampering with the network.
It further said illegal connections were rife in the area and as such overburdened the network system. This has led to continuous tripping and, at times, explosions at transformers and mini sub-stations.
“Furthermore, legal customers are in many instances found to have tampered with their meters or bought from unauthorised ghost vendors, making them non-buyers.”
The entity said due to the configuration of its network, it was a challenge to single out legal buying customers in good standing and sustain their supply, since even non-buyers would connect themselves illegally from the point that paying customers are supplied from.
While many residents have lost groceries as fridges became a breeding ground for worms and flies, Eskom said residents who could demonstrate culpability on the part of Eskom were permitted to lodge claims.