A community organisation representing hundreds of Soweto residents has proposed a flat rate of R100 per household per month for electricity in the township.
Lungelo Lethu Human Rights Foundation (LLHRF) is finalising a court application against Eskom at the Johannesburg High Court, IOL reports.
It wants an order compelling Eskom to reconnect power to about 250 Soweto households that were disconnected for non-payment.
‘Culture of non-payment’
LLHRF’s president King Sibiya said they also want to compel Eskom to begin negotiations on their R100 flat-rate proposal.
He said, “We want to [end] the culture of non-payment in Soweto. We can’t divorce ourselves from Eskom. A R100 flat rate from those who haven’t been paying is better than nothing.”
However, Eskom spokesperson Dikatso Mothae said it is the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA), not Eskom, that has the power to regulate electricity tariffs.
He added that Eskom is therefore unable to “negotiate” separate tariffs for Soweto and that a flat rate “could lead to wasteful usage of electricity.”
Soweto owes Eskom R18 billion
According to Eskom’s latest annual report, Soweto alone owes it a whopping R18 billion in unpaid electricity bills.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, and Eskom board chairperson Jabu Mabuza have all called for an end to the culture of non-payment.
In a recent newsletter, Ramaphosa said while boycotts played a role in ending apartheid, “[they have] no place in present-day South Africa. If public utilities like Eskom are to survive, then all users need to pay for the services they receive.”
However, in a recent interview, Sibiya said some Soweto residents have been disconnected despite paying, with some who are entitled to free or subsidised electricity also being affected.
“Our request to the court is very simple: establish a tribunal to hear the individual merits of each complaint before deciding to disconnect power from people who are often living in desperate circumstances,” he argued.
On Thursday, Eskom revealed that it had disconnected parts of Orange Farm, south of Johannesburg, for non-payment. The move has affected more than 2,600 households.