Soweto residents divided on Lesufi’s electricity debt scrapping comment

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Soweto residents have mixed reactions over Gauteng’s new Premier Panyaza Lesufi’s recent comment that he wants Eskom to scrap Soweto’s electricity debt.

Last week, Lesufi tweeted that residents of Soweto, informal settlements and other townships should be given amnesty by the state-owned electricity company.

Soweto alone owes Eskom close to R5 billion, the amount the power utility has been battling to recuperate.

In 2020 alone, Eskom wrote off close to R8 billion in overdue debt for Soweto residents. By the end of September this year, Soweto residents still owed Eskom R 4,7 billion.

Last week, Lesufi tweeted that this should also be scrapped, something some Soweto residents have welcomed.

“I think it’s a good idea that this debt should be taken away because most people have just inherited these houses. Imagine having to pay the debt that was created by your grandfather? I think it’s the best idea because people are not working. There are elderly people who are owning houses and on pension. Then they have to pay for electricity and municipal rates, that’s too much,” adds a resident.

However, not every Sowetan shares the same sentiment.

Lerato Ndlovu says, “It could be good at the same time bad. I for one I’m paying for electricity, I’m on prepaid. Why should it be an issue of Soweto being privileged to get the scrapping, it should be done throughout.”

She adds that people should move away from the culture of not paying.

“There has to be proper engagement. Suppose it’s a good thing to have it scrapped, but government cannot keep on scrapping the debt all the time. People also need to know that there’s nothing for free. If you are using water, pay for your water, if you are using electricity, pay for your electricity,” adds Ndlovu.

Not everyone in Soweto pays for their electricity. Eskom in Gauteng says non-payments does affect them as an entity. Eskom says R72 billion is needed over the next five years to upgrade its systems.

Spokesperson, Amanda Qithi explains, “As Eskom in Gauteng we have been conducting a lot of education and awareness to our customers on the importance of paying, because if they do not do that, it does affect us as a business. A recent example of Diepkloof, we have been engaging with customers in the area and we have had an increase in sales and also reduction in energy losses. We have moved from just 22% to 86% of customers who are now paying for electricity.”

Premier Lesufi’s office has refused to comment saying he’s still going to address it at the Exco meeting.