The township is said to owe Eskom R18 billion in unpaid electricity bills.
This week, Lungelo Lethu Human Rights Foundation (LLHRF) is finishing up court papers in a bid to haul Eskom to the South Gauteng High Court over electricity disconnections.
LLHRF’s president King Sibiya said they want an interim court order forcing Eskom to restore electricity to about 250 households.
Sibiya said they also want to force Eskom to get into negotiations with residents over the next 18 to 24 months to discuss a flat rate of R100 for energy consumption. “There are currently about 250 houses without electricity. While the whole area owes Eskom, we think the ones whose electricity has been switched off is more urgent.
“We want to kill the culture of non-payment in Soweto. We can’t divorce ourselves from Eskom. A R100 flat rate from those who haven’t been paying is better than nothing.”
He said the majority of people in the township couldn’t afford to pay for electricity because they are unemployed. Sibiya also argued this would work better because residents got electricity straight from Eskom and not through a municipality or a vendor.
Eskom spokesperson Dikatso Mothae said: “All Eskom tariffs are regulated by Nersa and Eskom abides by those tariffs for each category of customer.
“Customers will therefore pay the tariffs applicable to their category.
“Eskom cannot negotiate separate tariffs or have preferential arrangements outside of what is regulated.
“A fixed charge per household will result in customers paying a fixed amount irrespective of the amount of electricity used. This could lead to wasteful usage of electricity.”
Sibiya said in the last couple of months Eskom has been disconnecting electricity to residents for non-payment.
“When you ask to be reconnected, they do an audit from 2015. From this, they find that households owe between R300000 and R500000. To be reconnected, Eskom demands 25% of the owed amount. People are unemployed and can’t afford that.”
Sibiya said for those found with illegal connections, Eskom demanded an additional R6500.
Mothae said: “Eskom is not in a position to continuously provide services in areas where the residents are not paying.
“Non-payment of electricity does not only affect the security of supply for paying customers, but it also contributes to increased energy and revenue losses coupled with increased operational costs.”
Sibiya argued that the Soweto debt was not categorised by how much households owe as compared to businesses. “The R18bn we owe is not put on categories. We have malls and businesses in Soweto. We have schools and hospitals that use a lot of electricity. Eskom has not told us how much households on their own owe.”
But the power utility replied: “The government assists all qualifying indigent households by providing Free Basic Electricity (FBE).
“This is a programme facilitated and administered by municipalities. Eskom issues the FBE to identified customers on behalf of the government.”
Yesterday, Eskom announced they were cutting off electricity supply to nearly 3000 customers in Orange Farm’s Lakeside extension 1 and 2 for non-payment and not purchasing electricity tokens.