Wel­come to Katle­hong’s dark city

Violent protests at split me­ters lead to lack of elec­tric­ity for over a month

Sowetan - - Front Page - By Yoliswa Sobuwa

Load shed­ding, what load shed­ding? This is the ques­tion 100 fam­i­lies in Ncala sec­tion of Katle­hong, who have been with­out elec­tric­ity sup­ply for over a month, are ask­ing.

The sec­tion of the east rand town­ship, made up of mixed hous­ing, has been in the grip of rolling black­outs af­ter res­i­dents re­sisted Eskom’s at­tempts to in­stal pre­paid split me­ters to re­duce the vol­ume of un­ac­counted-for elec­tric­ity con­sump­tion.

As a re­sult of no power sup­ply, three spaza shops had to close, fur­ther com­pound­ing the lo­cals’ problems. They now have to walk long dis­tances to buy ba­sics such as bread.

Spaza shop-owner Richard Mothanyelo, 70, said the past month has been a strug­gle for his fam­ily. Mothanyelo lives with his three un­em­ployed chil­dren aged 22, 28 and 30 and an 18-year-old grand­son.

“I was able to feed my chil­dren with the money I made from the tuck­shop. The R1,700 pen­sion grant is too lit­tle to take care of us as I still have to pay for my med­i­ca­tion. With the tuck­shop I made about R1,500 a day but now with the shop closed things have been dif­fi­cult,” Mothanyelo said.

Eskom spokesper­son Tumi Mashishi said the com­pany had to with­draw its re­sources af­ter the com­mu­nity’s violent protests against the in­stal­la­tion of a split me­ter­ing sys­tem. Mashishi said the me­ters were part of Eskom’s ef­fort to up­grade the elec­tric­ity net­work to ad­dress the over­load­ing of trans­form­ers, il­le­gal con­nec­tions and un­planned out­ages.

“Eskom is com­mit­ted to work with the af­fected com­mu­ni­ties and var­i­ous stake­hold­ers to en­sure that the net­work is safe and the power is re­stored to the af­fected cus­tomers.”

Most of the fam­i­lies are us­ing can­dles and paraf­fin prima stoves to pre­pare meals.

Res­i­dent Seipati Hla­hane, 42, said ev­ery morn­ing she has to make a fire out­side to boil wa­ter to bath and make tea for her grand­fa­ther France Tho­bela, 82. “We can’t make a fire if the neigh­bours have done their laun­dry and we warm the wa­ter by leav­ing it out in the sun.

“For cook­ing we have to go to an­other sec­tion and leave the left­overs in the fridges. It only be­comes a prob­lem when you want to eat dur­ing the day and you find out the fam­ily is not there.”

Moses Mokoena, 67, and his wife Let­tie Thoko Mokoena, 66, have to walk 2km to get his di­a­betes in­jec­tion which has to be kept in the fridge.

“My hus­band has to take his in­jec­tion twice – in the morn­ing and also in the evening. We have to walk for 2kms to get the in­jec­tion. The painful part is that I have pre­paid elec­tric­ity in my house which is easy to mon­i­tor. We now live from hand to mouth and we eat mostly junk food which is not good for our health.”

/PHO­TOS / SANDILE NDLOVU

Richard Mothanyela’s busi­ness has been greatly af­fected by the load shed­ding in Katle­hong.

France Tho­bela walks in the dark with a lamp in one of the bed­rooms at his home.

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