Johannesburg - On the coldest night in Joburg since the start of winter, enraged Soweto residents braved the bitter chill to protest against power cuts.
On Wednesday night, a group of about 50 residents from Diepkloof Zone 6 took to the streets to vent their frustrations. They barricaded one of the main roads with garbage and lit fires obstructing traffic.
The disgruntled community claims that for the past two weeks they have been receiving more power cuts than residents in other parts of Soweto.
The group vowed not to disperse until somebody from Eskom came with answers but by 9pm, there was no sign of anyone and some simply could not stand the cold and left.
Police spokesman Captain Nomvula Mbense said on Thursday morning that calm had been restored to the township.
She said no major damage or injuries were reported in the protest and no one had been arrested.
Community leader Ntombi Ndaba was one of the last residents to leave.
She said they had hardly had hardly electricity for the past two weeks. “We did not have electricity from 8 in the evening until the next day at about 2 in the afternoon. This happened every day.
“I decided to buy a gas stove as electricity in this area is unreliable.”
She said on Monday and Tuesday there was no electricity for the entire day and night.
Ndaba said the community had on several occasions used Eskom’s customer care service line in a bid to air their complaints but their attempts had been futile.
“Somebody who does not tell us their name said Eskom was aware of our problem but we never received any help.
“Our children have to bath with cold water,” said Ndaba.
She said the community had also tried to contact the local councillor without success.
The greater parts of Zone 6 were still without electricity when The Star visited the area at about 9pm.
Another affected resident, Lucky Khumalo, now relies on a paraffin stove to cook.
He showed The Star e-mails and messages he had been sending to Eskom for help.
He never received any correspondence back from them.
“We have decided that the only way to get the attention of those in power is to come out here and block the roads; we are not leaving until they attend to us,” said Khumalo.
Eskom spokesman Khulu Phasiwe told The Star on Thursday morning that although the power utility was investigating the claims, illegal connections could be to blame for the township’s electricity problems.
Phasiwe said many Soweto households had a transformer capable of catering to the needs of an average household.
But when they share power with those living in backrooms and shacks, sub-stations are not able to carry the extra load and crash.
He urged residents to desist from connecting to power sources illegally and to report illegal connections to Eskom, so that sub-stations could be adapted.