Not even sitting in the dark for more than three weeks will push the hands of Mabopane residents to pay a hefty reconnection fee.
Eskom is asking for R6 000 per household.
The ailing power utility told City Press that electricity disconnections in the Mabopane neighbourhoods, including Slovoville, were as a result of poor payment levels and the increased rate of network equipment failures.
Resident Kagiso Mabunda told City Press that while he and his neighbours were desperate for electricity, he could not part with money he did not have.
For Mabunda, a fresh slate with new prepaid metres would be the ideal outcome.
“There are people who, due to Eskom’s failure to maintain electricity structures, have not been able to load electricity.
“I am unable to pay this amount. Start afresh, install proper infrastructure and new prepaid metre boxes and then take it from there.”
The 32-year-old told City Press that on Tuesday, community members issued residents with forms to sign to make payment arrangements. Residents were also told that they would need to pay an initial amount of R500 - an arrangement that Eskom confirmed.
According to Eskom, individuals who are found to have tampered with their metres are identified during the power utility’s audit and issued with the reconnection fee of R6 052.60.
“Eskom has engaged with the customers on the process and deferred payment arrangement where they [customers] are encouraged to enter into a six-month payment arrangement to settle the reconnection charge of R6 052.60.
The disconnection process will be effected should customers not honour the payment arrangement.
However, for Amos Msiza, whose mother’s house in Slovo went up in flames and was almost completely destroyed, this was not an option.
Msiza, who lives about 20 minutes from his 78-year-old mother, explained how she and his youngest brother who suffers from a mental illness had been left distraught after a fire engulfed their home on the evening of March 26.
“Of course this is as a result of the disconnection of electricity. Had there been power, there wouldn't have been a need for a candle,” he told City Press.
The kitchen and bedroom had been completely destroyed in the blaze.
“How can I trust she will be safe without electricity? They stay with a woman who assists them but anything can happen.”
Some residents, including 48-year-old Simphiwe Majola, believe officials only care about money instead of serving citizens.
“Our living conditions are already dire and they are pushing us further into a slump. We are willing to pay, but not all of us have the money.
“How can I sign something whereas I know I do not have the money to do what is required as per the document?
“We saw the amount of R6 000 and were taken aback. Then, we were told that we could pay R500 upfront, and I am sure they though that this was better, but we simply do not have the money.”
Echoing Mabunda’s sentiment, Majola lambasted the power utility, saying it had to take some responsibility for what had happened.
“They have been neglectful and now come with a blanket approach where they just simply disconnect electricity. They should have taken charge of the situation before it got to a point where they are now demanding exorbitant amounts from the poor. We are an unequal society,” he said, adding that some might be able to afford while others could not due to their socioeconomic standings.
Eskom said a desktop audit was conducted in these areas and it was found that less than 51% of both conventional and prepaid customers were paying for their electricity usage.