Enraged Diepkloof residents are adamant that voting in this Soweto community will not go ahead as planned on November 1. Plagued by protracted power outages and inundated with load shedding, the residents have vowed to shut down all polling stations on Monday.
“One thing I can say for certain is that we will not allow any voting station to open. We will make sure no one puts up a tent of any sort or we will burn it to the ground,” said a community leader who identified himself as Mike.
On Wednesday, a large group of disgruntled residents took to the streets in protest against their lack of access to electricity.
“We never asked the government for any freebies. The ruling party is the one that made all these empty promises about free electricity. But, because they looted and spent all the money on themselves, they now want us to pay for basic services.”
So said Diepkloof resident Dorcas Nkosi. She was among the protesters who raised their ire at the governing party. They barricaded the Soweto Highway using rocks, burning tyres and trees, preventing motorists from using the road.
“We are prepared to pay but they should take responsibility for their errors and stop making us the bad people,” Nkosi said.
For her, a more burning issue was how Grade 12 pupils could be expected to study and write exams when the neighbourhood had been without electricity for “four days in a row”.
“Yet we are told that we want a high pass rate? How? It has been a cold week so far. Children need warmth when they leave home. They need warmth when they come back. Is this not a form of abuse on them too?
“We were told that we would experience load shedding on Tuesday from 5pm to 10pm, but we have not had electricity for days on end.”
While sitting on the verge of the Rea Vaya bus station, community leader Mike told City Press: “If we were real criminals, we would have burnt down this Rea Vaya station because it does nothing for us, and all we are and have been asking for is electricity.”
He warned political parties not to expect any voting to take place. “They only come here when they want us to vote for them, and that will not happen.”
A sentiment shared by Nkosi. “We want nothing that has to do with voting. They should not bring any voting nonsense to Diepkloof. They should take it to Ramaphosa. That is where it should end. Not here.”
Meanwhile, less than 10 minutes away, the EFF led residents on a march to the Eskom distribution base in Klipspruit. The party said the power utility “is undermining the people of Soweto” following electricity cuts in the area.
Led by the party’s Johannesburg regional secretary, Shakes Tshabalala, the aim of the march was to deliver a memorandum of demands to the power utility. The demands include:
- An end to power cuts and load shedding
- A flat electricity rate for all Soweto residents
- No prepaid metres
- A write-off of Soweto’s R7.5 billion debt to Eskom
- No privatisation of electricity provision
- For Eskom to pay back the R178 billion it lost to corrupt tenders.
The debt Soweto residents owe Eskom was reduced to R7.5 billion in 2021 from R12.8 billion in 2020. The power utility wrote off R5.3 billion.
Addressing the crowd outside the Eskom offices, Tshabalala said it was imperative that the provision of reliable electricity in Soweto and the rest of the country be addressed.
“We are not here because we are bored. We decided to leave our door-to-door campaigns, even though we are in the last stages of the election campaign, to take our people’s issues directly to Eskom because we are all affected,” he told the cheering crowd. “This entity is taking electricity and we don’t understand why they are doing that. They continue to introduce different stages of load shedding as they please, without any logical sense of why they are doing that to us.”
He urged black people to be wary of their victimhood. “For as long as we don’t stand up for our rights, we will continue to be victims. If the people of Eskom want to see a real revolution, let them start with us and they will understand who we are and what we are made of.
“As we speak, Eskom has proposed stage 4 load shedding. Ask yourself what informs those stages. We have that quagmire that we are confronted with by this criminal called Eskom.”
The ailing power utility announced on Wednesday morning that rolling blackouts would be escalated from stage 2 to stage 4 from noon.
The contentious issue of electricity provision in Soweto has been ongoing. It has seen residents from Nomzamo, Orlando and Snake Park take to the streets in protest.
Eskom’s Patricia Mnguni signed and received the memorandum, which the party said it was giving the power utility 14 days to respond to.