The Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee says it wants Eskom to write off its entire R16 billion electricity bill that residents owe to the state-owned power utility. This week, Eskom announced it would be writing off R5.3 billion electricity debt owed by Soweto residents.

This, despite the power utility’s announcement during their annual result presentation that they are owed R35.3 billion in municipal debt and reporting a financial loss of almost R19 billion.

However, the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee says this is not enough. Lerato Mokgapi is the spokesperson for the entity.

“We still not excited about that and we stand firm on our position which is clear that Eskom should scrap all the debt. Prior to this pandemic residents of Soweto took to the streets protesting against the unfair practices of Eskom and high tariffs. The majority of the poor that are using the electricity are unemployed.”

The committee says it wants a flat rate payment system and all historical debt scrapped.

“Soweto is against Eskom’s pre-paid system and its high tariffs. We are talking about a basic need here. And again if they say they will be scrapping that 5.3 because currently, we don’t even have electricity. In Diepkloof, already we are sitting with a ridiculous schedule of electricity and now they still expect us to pay. And as residents of Soweto we will not pay,” adds Mokgapi.

The Soweto Business Forum agrees that writing off the debt is not good enough.

“We truly appreciate the acknowledgment from Eskom and the fact that a lot of Sowetans are doing very bad economically. We need to forge partnerships that are going to make sure that we can use the energy sector to create employment. A lot of people who have gone from not paying for Eskom who are now using pre-paid electricity they are still unemployed,” says a Soweto Business Forum representative.

Eskom Stokvel

The forum says they have created an Eskom Stokvel to help businesses deal with the high electricity bills and be able to plug into other alternative sources of energy like solar power.

“We have put our money together so we can be able to help other businesses to rent out the equipment; we have had discussions with the likes of Safin, the likes of Bidvest. When people cannot afford to buy solar panels the stokvel is able to rent those solar panels to them,” says the representative.

Eskom says they are the top 20 non-paying municipalities that owe 23% of the arrears. Only 10 municipalities honour their payment arrangements with Eskom – from the 43 non-paying municipalities.

The power utility this week said it would be having better-operating profits if these arrears are fully paid by municipalities.

VIDEO: Power Outages | Soweto residents protest outside Eskom’s Megawatt Park