'If you don't vote ANC, electricity may never be restored' - Ramaphosa tells protesting residents

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  • President Cyril Ramaphosa has shifted the blame for the surge in load shedding to illegal connections of electricity and the theft of cables. 
  • Ramaphosa also placed the blame for the failing power provision on pressure placed on a few substations as a result of others being switched off for maintenance work. 
  • The president was forced to address the matter of load shedding after residents of Tsabella, in Ekurhuleni held up placards stating, "no electricity, no vote". 

Contrary to the ANC's assertion that the ongoing rolling blackouts may be done deliberately by Eskom for "political ends", President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday sang from a different hymn sheet. 

Unlike the accusatory stance take by his party, Ramaphosa, while addressing community members in Tsabella in Ekurhuleni, instead, attributed the power utility's challenges to illegal electrical connections and cable theft. 

Ramaphosa, who had avoided responding to questions around the surge in load shedding from the media all morning, was finally forced to address the matter as some residents in the crowd carried placards stating, "no electricity, no vote". 

"I have been told by your mayor [Mzwandile Masina] that you have had no electricity for over four months. He [Masina] has told me that the reason for your lack of electricity has been the fact that your transformer used to supply this community with electricity was apparently damaged and Eskom has indicated that it has no capacity to replace it at the moment," said Ramaphosa. 

READ | ANC demands answers on Eskom's planned Stage 4 load shedding, suggests political motive

In a charm offensive, Ramaphosa was also quick to add that in Shawela, Soweto where he grew up, residents were also facing electricity supply issues because of the damage to transformers. 

He said from what he had gathered from the power utility, there were 44 transformers that were not working in Soweto and Eskom was inundated with supplying transformers to affected areas.

Ramaphosa discouraged residents from setting up illegal electricity connections as this was one of the main causes of transformers being damaged. 

He also indicated that due to maintenance work, Eskom was forced to shut down certain transformers and substations, leaving only a few in operation, placing pressure on the entire power ecosystem.

Ramaphosa also assured the residents from Tsabella, in Ekurhuleni to not despair as the rest of the country was also currently experiencing stage four load shedding, adding that Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan had, on Wednesday, committed to ensuring that the load shedding stages would drastically be reduced leading up to the weekend ahead of Monday's municipal elections. 

As for the Tsabella residents, the president said Masina had assured him that a replacement transformer was due to be delivered soon. 

"So, this thing of 'no electricity, no vote' needs to stop now. If you don't vote for the ANC, then electricity may never be restored. Which other party do you trust to ensure that electricity is restored here?" asked Ramaphosa. 

He added that even in more developed countries such as the US, load shedding persisted. 

"In California, they had no electricity for months," said Ramaphosa. 

READ | SA to jump to Stage 4 load shedding until Friday

While he was not as eager to apportion blame to the power utility as his party did on Wednesday, Ramaphosa did direct some blame toward Eskom, saying it was because of "some of its technicians" who approached desperate community members for bribes to bridge their prepaid electricity meters so that they did not pay more in tariffs, an undertaking that also ended up causing damage to the power system. 

Residents confirmed that this was the case, much to Ramaphosa's amusement.

"If I was part of the law enforcement, I would have arrested all of you who are agreeing."

Ramaphosa also reminded residents that if they were genuinely struggling to pay for electricity, government had rolled out an indigent subsidy for this very reason. 

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