Soweto youth take on Eskom over load shedding: ‘I don’t think they take us seriously’

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Young members of Nomzamo, Orlando East in Soweto took it upon themselves to march to Eskom in Diepkloof for the restoration of the electricity in their community. Nomzamo is one of the townships in Soweto that hasn't had electricity since last year July. Picture: Rosetta Msimango/City Press
Young members of Nomzamo, Orlando East in Soweto took it upon themselves to march to Eskom in Diepkloof for the restoration of the electricity in their community. Nomzamo is one of the townships in Soweto that hasn't had electricity since last year July. Picture: Rosetta Msimango/City Press

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They have just finished writing exams and had been forced to study under candlelight.

Fed up with being inconvenienced, the young people took to the streets, marching to the Eskom offices in Soweto.

After unsuccessful marches in July last year by “our parents, we, as the youth of Nomzamo decided that today [Tuesday], we would take it upon ourselves to march to the Eskom offices to demand that electricity be restored in our area”.

We have suffered enough as the youth and we want our voices to be heard too
Reitumetsi Maake

Reitumetsi Maake (15) was one of the more than 60 young people of Nomzamo in Orlando, Soweto, who marched to the Eskom offices in Diepkloof. She said the young people had taken it upon themselves to stand up and fight for their rights.

“The reason we are marching today is because our parents tried and failed to get through to those in charge and have our electricity restored to our area,” she told City Press.

“What troubles us as young people the most is that we wrote exams last year, which we had to study for using candlelight, and most of us did not pass.

READ: ANC, Sanco in Soweto serve Eskom with demands

“We have just written exams and this year was no different. We have suffered enough as the youth and we want our voices to be heard too. We want education but things such as these hinder us from succeeding.”

Maake emphasised that beyond struggling with studying or doing homework, she and her counterparts had witnessed a number of their neighbour’s houses and shacks burn to ashes as candles and paraffin stoves tipped over.

“We have seen a lot of houses burn down and we also worry about, what if ours is next,” said the worried teenager.

Power utility Eskom has been under fire since implementing load shedding a few years ago.

Last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa called out municipalities and large settlements, including Soweto, for not paying their utility bills.

Bulelwa Gana (29), member of the Nomzamo Park Orlando East Youth Committee, shared Maakes’s sentiment. Gana said it was time for them, as young people, to take a stance.

“We need our voices heard. The community elders have tried time and time again to no avail. We are hoping that the younger people – those who suffer the most when there is no electricity in the area – will make a difference,” she said.

While initially the young people’s endeavour seemed fruitless, engagements between youth community leaders and one of Eskom’s managers, Nathi Motsoane, offered a glimmer of hope.

Young members of Nomzamo, Orlando East in Soweto t
Young members of Nomzamo, Orlando East in Soweto took it upon themselves to march to Eskom in Diepkloof for the restoration of the electricity in their community. Nomzamo is one of the townships in Soweto that hasn't had electricity since last year July. Picture: Rosetta Msimango/City Press
Young members of Nomzamo, Orlando East in Soweto t
Young members of Nomzamo, Orlando East in Soweto took it upon themselves to march to Eskom in Diepkloof for the restoration of the electricity in their community. Nomzamo is one of the townships in Soweto that hasn't had electricity since last year July. Picture: Rosetta Msimango/City Press
Young members of Nomzamo, Orlando East in Soweto t
Young members of Nomzamo, Orlando East in Soweto took it upon themselves to march to Eskom in Diepkloof for the restoration of the electricity in their community. Nomzamo is one of the townships in Soweto that hasn't had electricity since last year July. Picture: Rosetta Msimango/City Press

Motsoane is based at the Megawatt offices in Midrand but was in Diepkloof on Tuesday.

“The issue of not having electricity is a real and big one and we understand,” Motsoane said.

“I am based at Megawatt but I am fully aware of the Nomzamo situation and we are doing everything we can to fix it.”

Motsoane said because of the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak and subsequent lockdown, there had been a delay in the acquisition of necessary material to restore power to the area.

“We have started the work, but we have had delays in getting material such as poles, conductors and other small material. The problem is in the supply chain,” he said.

While Motsoane said he could not give an exact date when power would be restored, he said he would keep the young people apprised.

READ: Soweto councillor calls on residents to join Eskom march in solidarity

“We hear the cries of the youth. We have to find a way forward. I will keep in touch with them and will give them a progress report going forward.”

Following the meeting with Eskom representatives, Sinelizwi Ludidi (33), of Nomzamo, said he was sceptical. “I don’t think they take us seriously as a community. We have tried numerous times to engage them but we have not succeeded,” he told City Press.

“But we can’t give up. We have to keep pushing and that is what we will do because we are the youth who must fight for the community we have lived in all our lives.

“To many people, this may seem like something silly, but it is very important to us and we have to keep on fighting.”


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Palesa Dlamini 

Journalist

+27 11 713 9001
palesa.dlamini@citypress.co.za
www.citypress.co.za
69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park
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