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ANC accused of 'electrickery' ploy

312 20/07/16 20/07/16 The President of South Africa Jacob Zuma addressed thousands of residents at Thembisa Ekurhuleni Region during a door to door campaign following the election that will be held on the 3rd of August. Picture:Nokuthula Mbatha

312 20/07/16 20/07/16 The President of South Africa Jacob Zuma addressed thousands of residents at Thembisa Ekurhuleni Region during a door to door campaign following the election that will be held on the 3rd of August. Picture:Nokuthula Mbatha

Published Aug 1, 2016

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Johannesburg - Residents of Thembelihle near Lenasia have accused President Jacob Zuma of using an electricity project as a political ploy to garner votes in the area.

They said it was unlikely the project would be completed as it was moving at a snail's pace, leaving many still in the dark.

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Zuma visited the informal settlement south of Joburg on June 30 as part of the ANC's election campaign. On the day of his visit, the City of Joburg and City Power announced that the president had switched on electricity to 7 000 residents.

Last week, however, a group about 350 angry residents marched to City Power's offices in Lenasia, complaining that only 200 shacks had been electrified since the rollout of the project began in October last year.

"There are 9 000 stands in Thembelihle and several shacks on each stand. We have been fighting hard for this since March last year, and electrification began only in October, but it's going too slowly," said Nhlakanipho Lukhele, spokesman for the Operation Khanyisa Movement (OKM), a community-based organisation that has led protests in the area for more than a decade.

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OKM's proportional representation councillor, Simphiwe Zwane, said the president had "switched on three houses in a 30-minute visit".

"It was a move that was condemned by the community as cheap vote-mongering because the electrification project is far from complete," said Zwane.

She said only one section of Thembelihle's four sections had been switched on so far.

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The Star approached the office of the member of mayoral committee for environment and infrastructure, Matshidiso Mfikoe, for comment, but was referred to City Power.

City Power spokesman Hloni Motloung said the utility and the City of Joburg were spending more than R1 billion to electrify informal settlements. "The rollout of electricity in Thembelihle is ongoing."

However, there seem to be discrepancies around the project.

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Motloung said the time-frame for the Thembelihle electrification project was two financial years - 2015/16 and 2016/17, with the City of Joburg and City Power spending about R350 million.

But in a statement on the day of Zuma's visit in June, City Power and the City of Joburg stated that the electrification project was worth only about R90m. Furthermore, the electrification budget for both financial years shows Thembelihle is not on the list.

When asked twice to point out where Thembelihle could be found in the budget, the question was avoided.

Motloung said the project would be completed by the end of June next year at the latest.

But residents are less than impressed. A woman, who identified herself only as Thandeka, said the ANC was full of empty promises. "We can't vote for the ANC when they lie to us. We can't continue to live in the dark."

On Sunday, when the president continued to promise electricity to the poor at the final ANC rally in Joburg, Thandeka said it wasn't fair for him "to carry on lying to the people; it's not right".

Another resident, Lerato, said people were becoming sickly and dying from the cold because of the lack of electricity.

"They made us a promise, they came in here in June campaigning and they told us they would help us, but they've done nothing."

On Thursday, residents handed a memorandum to City Power.

ANC spokeswoman Khusela Sangoni said the promise to electrify Thembelihle had been made before the 2014 national elections.

"Governmental processes have led us only to deliver now. It can't be said that we're using this to garner votes," she said.

Election Bureau/The Star

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