As Gauteng experiences chilly weather conditions, Chiawelo residents in Soweto, south of Johannesburg, have been without electricity for a year. This is a result of a damaged transformer that is yet to be repaired. They have vowed to stay away from voting stations, should their electricity issues not be resolved.

Stella Maluleka runs a daycare centre on Vele Street. Rinsing her vegetables in a tap outside to be cooked on a gas stove, Maluleka says she cooks three meals a day on a gas stove now –  a costly exercise.

“It’s nearly a year now, from last year June. Just imagine I have a crèche, I have to cook for the kids. I’m struggling every week; I have to buy gas and paraffin. I’m spending a week about R1000.”

The cold front has creeped in, Maluleka says she’s struggling to keep warm. However, her main concern is the little children that come to the daycare centre.

“It’s affecting the kids because it’s winter now and we have heaters inside the classrooms, but we can’t use them because there is no electricity. We can’t even type letters to the parents. In the morning when we have to switch on the geyser, we can’t. We have to boil water using gas or just bath with cold water. As an elderly person, we are struggling. We have to sit there in the dining room with blankets around us and the para stove heater. It’s not even safe because it’s paraffin. Sometimes it’s the curtains, so this electricity thing is just a mess. We don’t know when it’s going to come back.”

Her neighbour has already fallen ill. Sipping on tea, he just made from a small enamel tea pot on the paraffin stove, Isaac Mkhumishe says he has been sick as a result of the paraffin fumes he has been inhaling.

“It’s been tough without electricity. The fridges don’t work and we have to use paraffin and candles. I used the paraffin inside the house, I was not aware that the fumes were dangerous.  Now my chest is blocked I’m still not 100% fine. So I think we need to go to megawatt park and protest there.”

Salon owner Madoda has had to shut down his salon due to lack of electricity.

“I don’t work anymore, unless it’s house calls. It’s just poverty; a 9kg gas cylinder only lasts two weeks. We have to buy food every day because we don’t have any fridges to store the food.”

Meanwhile, the residents have threatened to stay away from the polls should the electricity issue not be resolved.

“I don’t even think I’m going to vote, what are we voting for?”

Eskom is yet to respond on the matter.