Dozens of families in Diepsloot Section 3 have been without electricity for the past month. This as winter is strongly setting in, in Gauteng.
As temperatures dropped to zero degrees Celcius this week, they say, keeping warm and preparing a hot meal remains a daily struggle.
Winter has caused a surge in the demand for electricity. It has been more than one month of icy winter nights and cold meals for more than 90 families in Diepsloot, Gauteng.
An electricity outage on 6 May this year has left them in the dark as the cold weather, in the province persists.
Diepsloot resident, France Sebuelo explains the daily struggles for his family.
“The kids that were studying online, cannot study. We had to throw away a lot of food from the freezer. With cooking, we are using paraffin which is not healthy. The area that we are in, it’s far away from the squatter camps and there is not an illegal connection from the mini-sub.”
It has been a tough winter so far for a 28-year-old mother of three, Beauty Lerato Mokoena. She says maintaining hygiene levels, especially during the coronavirus pandemic has been challenging without hot water.
“It affected me so much. Every day, I need to go to the shop, buy meat, buy bread. The kids can’t study. We don’t bath everyday. We don’t wash our clothes everyday. We can’t eat proper meals. We only eat in the morning. My 78-year-old gran is complaining. We are going back to bed so we can stay warm.”
In a statement released by Eskom this week, the power utility noted a significant rise in network overloading resulting from illegal connections across high-density areas of Gauteng namely; Cosmo City, Diepsloot, Ivory Park, Orange Farm, Sebokeng and Soweto.
Eskom says illegal connections on infrastructure are the leading cause of prolonged electricity outages. While community members have denied illegal electricity connections, Communication and Stakeholder Manager for Eskom in Gauteng Reneiloe Semenya says this has been the source of the problem in Diepsloot.
She says power will not be restored until fines for illegal connections have been paid.
“We went to remove the illegal connections so that we can repair and replace the equipment. We are talking about transformers. Unfortunately, customers in that area did not come forward to pay the temper fine. When customers do illegal activities, we fine them R6 050. We want to use this amount as a deterrent for customers not to do illegal activity. We are not able to repair and restore supply without dealing with the root cause. The majority of people in Diepsloot are not paying for their services. We end up with repeated failed equipment then transformers explode because they are overloaded.”
Eskom says the power utility has offered customers in Diepsloot a payment plan for their fines. However, no one has since come through.
Repeated power failures due to extreme network overloading and illegal connections
(Cosmo City, Diepsloot, Ivory Park, Orange Farm, Sebokeng and Soweto) pic.twitter.com/I8ajtdc4ru
— Eskom Hld SOC Ltd (@Eskom_SA) June 16, 2020
In the meantime, winter in Gauteng is likely to get colder and darker as the drop in temperatures has caused a surge in demand for electricity in the province.
According to weather forecasts, temperatures are expected to drop to 1-degree Celsius in Gauteng this week, with a maximum of 15 degrees on Sunday.