After days of riots, culminating in an estimated R35 million in damage, the electricity woes of the community of Tembisa will soon cease, Ekurhuleni mayor Tania Campbell promised residents yesterday.
Four people are believed to have died at the hands of security forces and municipal infrastructure was also damaged. The community was up in arms over high electricity rates and the lack of service delivery. They were also calling for the return of the free 100KW policy.
Campbell met the residents at Mehlareng Stadium to address their issues and made a string of promises. She indicated that the metro would provide residents with 50% write-off of debt in excess of one year on the date of application approval, which would be inclusive of rates, service charges, interest and other costs. Campbell said this would be available to qualifying applicants until 31 March 2023.
“Many of you have highlighted the issue of historic debt and incorrect billing hanging over you and your families. This needs to be rectified immediately.
“We want to assure you that the issue of the inaccurate billing system is being resolved. We will also ensure that bills for water, sanitation, rates and taxes are separated from the electricity bill,” she said.
Campbell assured the community that the municipality was in the process of reviewing the indigent policy [this is aimed at including those currently excluded from access to basic services, through the provision of a social safety net] to ensure that all residents who qualify for a subsidy are assisted.
“We have resolved to stop any disconnections and declines of indigent applications for the next 90 days. “All the residents who qualify for the indigent policy will be assisted,” said Campbell.
“We will be hosting a two-week service delivery open day, with the finance, health and social development departments to assist all residents with indigent applications.
“We will start rolling out the SMS system to notify all residents of their account arrears, which means that residents will no longer be charged for the administration and delivery of cut-off notice letters.”
On the provision of the free 100KW, she said the metro would continue to provide 50KW free.
“The 100KW free basic units are outside of our restrictions as a municipality, therefore we are engaging with the provincial and national government to find a solution,” she said.
Community member Dorah Mtshanyeo said they wanted a flat rate and they also wanted the municipality to allow them to buy electricity directly from Eskom.
“There’s a middle man before we get to Eskom so we want to buy directly from Eskom because it is cheaper. “We also want every house to pay R500 as a flat rate for water.”
Another resident said that had the mayor come to address them last Friday, as the community had requested, the protest would not have become violent.
“People got angry because of that, and that is why they were burning things. I think the burning of things was just a political thing.
“They just saw an opportunity to strike. I don’t think to burn or destroy will help them tomorrow.”
Tembisa Community Forum spokesperson Xolani Mnisi lauded Campbell’s intervention, saying she had tackled critical issues.
“The termination letters that came with a R180 charge will no longer be the order of the day. Electricity will be separated from rates, taxes and water, therefore, if someone cannot afford to pay they will not cut their electricity access,” he said.
“The review of the indigent policy – we know it is something that can be done in one day.”