Soweto protests no comfort for elderly

170614. Mofolo North Soweto, Johannesburg. Mabel Ngwenya(87) has a blood pressure and is struggling because of the cold without electricity. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

170614. Mofolo North Soweto, Johannesburg. Mabel Ngwenya(87) has a blood pressure and is struggling because of the cold without electricity. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Published Jun 18, 2014


Johannesburg - Mabel Ngwenya was fast asleep, unaware of the tension growing among protesters just outside her house on Tuesday.

With no electricity to power a heater, the 87-year-old slumbered under a mound of blankets in a bid to keep the icy chill of winter from her bones.

She is just one of the many residents of Mofolo North, Soweto, who have been experiencing daily power cuts, which have led to protests directed at Eskom and calls for the local councillor to resign.

Ngwenya’s daughter Gugu said her mother suffers from high blood pressure, and the cold had not helped her condition.

“Without a heater or something to warm up the house, she’s getting worse,” she said.

Residents said the power has been cut daily for the past six weeks from about 6pm and is restored only around 10am or even as late as 3pm the next day.

“She used to wake up early, around 5am, but now she can’t. When it’s a little bit warm I can take her outside,” Gugu said.

On a trip outside later on Tuesday morning, Ngwenya hurt herself when she fell over a kettle that had to be placed on the floor, because the extension cord powering it from the nearby church could reach only that point.

Meanwhile, Mofolo North residents became so frustrated that their concerns weren’t being addressed, they took to the streets on Tuesday for the second day in a row.

Just metres from the Ngwenya home, roads were blocked by large rocks and burning tyres as Joburg metro police and SAPS officers monitored the situation.

Joburg metro police spokesman Wayne Minnaar said on Tuesday morning it was not safe for motorists to use these roads as rocks were being hurled at passing vehicles.

Houses in this section - spanning five roads that run parallel to each other - had been hit by the cuts, while surrounding sections had not been affected, the residents said.

“It’s so hurtful to look over and see their electricity, that is why we’re so upset,” said Bafana Maseko, a local tavern owner.

All the residents The Star spoke to said they believed the problem was a temporary transformer installed by Eskom last winter that was supposed to be replaced with a permanent one.

“The transformer they’ve allocated doesn’t have the capacity for the area,” one man said.

Eskom, however, blames illegal connections that overload the system.

In a statement, Eskom said the mini-substation that supplies the area is often overloaded and this causes the power outages due to illegal connections.

High levels of illegal connections in winter caused a significant load increase and a subsequent overloading of the localised network, the power utility said.

“We are paying for electricity, just like everybody else,” Gugu said, disagreeing that they are using illegal connections.

The residents said their councillor, Majonny Tsobane, has been aware of the problem and called for him to resign over the matter.

“He must step down, like it or not,” said one woman.

Other residents said they had been trying to reach Tsobane for a month but in vain.

“They told us (on Monday) he’s in Durban. He’s playing hide and seek,” a local attorney said.

It is understood that Tsobane went to the area on Tuesday to address the crowd, but he had to leave because officers were concerned the protest presented a safety issue for him.

Efforts to reach Tsobane were unsuccessful.

Demonstrations so far:

Gauteng facing increasing tensions in the townships as residents protest

* June 17, 2014:

Residents in Mofolo, Soweto, protested on Tuesday morning by burning tyres and throwing rocks at passing vehicles, Joburg metro police said.

* June 11, 2014:

Diepkloof bare bum protest, police fired rubber bullets to disperse protesters who bared their bottoms during a service delivery protest in Diepkloof Zone Six, Soweto.

* June 9, 2014:

Bekkersdal residents gathered outside Simunye Secondary School on the West Rand to protect their children after reported gang violence in the area.

May 22, 2014:

Joburg Social Development employees took to the streets to protest against alleged misconduct by senior management.

* March 14, 2014: ANC’s VIP security fired live ammunition at Bekkersdal residents.

* June 17, 2014: Long stand-off between police and informal traders in front of municipal offices in the Pretoria city centre regarding the delivery of a petition from Barekisi Forum.

Tshwane metro police officers rushed to remove their vehicles as sjambok-wielding protesters marched in Pretoria central. Members of the Tshwane Barekisi Forum were protesting in the city against alleged harassment and abuse by municipal police.

Related Topics: