Soweto owes R20bn to power provider Eskom, but residents of the township only want to pay R150 a month for their power. Mpho Sesedinyane, ANC councilor and chair of the South African National Civic Organization (Sanco) in Soweto, feels that R150 is a fair amount and that, given the state of the economy, the residents can only afford to pay this much a month for power.
However, Eskom rejected the proposal of a fixed power tariff of R150 per month for electricity. Eskom spokesperson Reneilwe Semenya said this proposal by community leaders in Soweto was unrealistic and residents had to pay for what they consumed. He also referred to the Johannesburg High Court which on Tuesday rejected an application to restore power supply to Soweto and allow residents to pay a flat rate for power.
Soweto owes R20 billion of the R420 billion owed to the Johannesburg metro power supplier. Semenya believes that if a fixed power tariff is set, it will certainly give rise to a culture of non-payment. He says that to combat the problem in Soweto, Eskom will start to make use of prepaid meters, which are installed in a steel casing and watch them with hawk eyes. They will also monitor consumption patterns. If a household doesn’t consume electricity or buy little electricity, someone may have tampered with the meter. ”
However, Sesedinyane believes that a fixed rate can create a culture of payment among the residents of Soweto. He argues that we must remember where it started (non-payment). After the ANC came to power, the party never told communities that they should pay now (for services) and that this is a good thing. He further states that if one considers that a household survives on child allowances or social grants, R150 is a fair amount; it could even pay off the debt of R20bn.
Meanwhile, the South African Local Government Association (Salga), which represents 257 municipalities, says the proposal is unrealistic.
“We are aware of the proposal, but it is unrealistic. We no longer have the luxury of cheap electricity in South Africa. You have to pay for what you consume, ”said Sivuyile Mbambato, spokesman for Salga.