Disgruntled Wesbank residents who have experienced electricity challenges for nearly two years have now roped in the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), claiming Eskom has failed them.
SAHRC commissioner Chris Nissen visited the area on Monday after community leaders requested that he intervene over what they described as lack of delivery of basic services.
About two months ago, residents marched to Eskom’s offices with a memorandum of demands calling for unplanned load shedding to stop.
Last year, the state-owned entity met with community leaders who wanted it to account for its offline call centre and infrastructure damages, among other issues.
Ward councillor Ebrahim Sawant said they had tried everything to get Eskom to respond or implement sustainable solutions to the issues the residents faced.
“Residents remain frustrated because they have been patient for too long now. There is nothing that has not been done to get Eskom’s attention. In 2021 we had a demonstration, even a few months back.
“Even though the entire country is experiencing load shedding, here it is worse.
“The power will either not return after the scheduled outage, or takes a long time. One resident has been without power for about 30 days.
“People’s livelihoods are under threat, and this also makes residents vulnerable to criminals. Cable theft and infrastructure damage is also a challenge, especially during these prolonged blackouts.
“Our hope now lies with the SAHRC, which has committed to convene a meeting between us and Eskom,” he said.
Sawant said their desperation had led them to write to the SAHRC asking for an investigation.
Nissen said he had written to Eskom following a meeting with the residents on Monday.
“We have to hear from both sides because I understand this has persisted for some time. Community leaders also spoke about the low flow of electricity, that only one or two appliances can be on in the house.
“Then it’s the alleged criminal activity such as robberies, houses vandalised by people who throw bricks and women being raped. I have asked that all evidence be shared with us. We have sent a communiqué to Eskom, we want to return to the community with the officials and see if we can resolve these challenges. They have to serve all communities equally, it’s their mandate,” said Nissen.
According to Eskom, continued vandalism of infrastructure and cable theft in Wesbank were causing multiple network faults that left the area without electricity for prolonged periods.
“Eskom understands the frustration of the affected customers as it experiences its own frustrations in having to repeatedly repair and replace vandalised equipment.
“Eskom has appealed to the community of Wesbank to kindly assist to safeguard the Eskom network and equipment that is installed for the provision of quality electricity supply services.
“Eskom is incurring huge costs in replacing cables and other equipment that is repeatedly vandalised. A sustainable solution to the problem is through the collaboration with community services and for the public to report useful information that can lead to the arrest of perpetrators. Eskom wishes to apologise for any inconvenience caused to its customers,” the utility said.