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#PoeticLicence: If Africa's 'Richest Square Mile’ owes R158 million in services, who are we in the townships?

Author and poet Rabbie Serumula. File image.

Author and poet Rabbie Serumula. File image.

Published Feb 20, 2022

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Johannesburg - I suppose the word ‘basic’ tripped and fell on deaf ears. It was silent to us when we were promised free basic services. It sounded like a river in our taps and uncapped electricity to us.

Besides, we have inherited a culture of non-payment. It is a part of our struggle.We are spawns of a people who boycotted payments for services in apartheid South Africa. This has always been an effective tool to mobilise communities and fight against an unjust system.

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But when the system became somewhat justified, we had just gotten used to not paying for these services. It is hard to take the ‘cult’ out of culture. And time just keeps moving, while electricity prices keep climbing.

There is no end to this ladder. This ladder is a beanstalk and it keeps growing. Eskom is a giant that lives in a house in the clouds and all we want is a golden egg. But we are too lightheaded from the altitude.

And as far as golden eggs go, there is always a price to pay when you don't own the enchanted goose that lays them. Look at the City of Tshwane and how they disconnected the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa. How they threatened to shut down the power at the University of South Africa if they didn't pay them.

Services are disconnected at hotels. Even churches aren’t safe.

The city is actively rooting out the ‘cult’ in culture. Make sure that your tithes and offerings get to the municipality’s account or you will be worshipping in the dark.

The City of Joburg is following suit. Their municipality said there was a debt of more than R38 billion owed and the biggest amount belonged to Sandton City.

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If Africa's 'Richest Square Mile’ owes R158 million in services, who are we in the townships?

If not an impoverished, not akin to paying, bunch selective listeners who misunderstood the ‘basic’ part of services that are supposed to be free. I suppose the word ‘basic’ tripped and fell on deaf ears, it was silent to us. It all sounded like free water and electricity to us.

Prepaid meters were a formality. A lie that turned true by sticking a needle on the main switch to slow down the counting. To counter the rands that go to Eskom and divert them to our tummies.

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These free basic services are for the poor. And this is who we are - champions of living below the poverty line. It is hard to think twice about making an illegal connection when you are hungry.

During apartheid, we boycotted paying for services to combat human rights violations committed at the expense of our people, in our own land that landed in the hands of the coloniser when we taught them ubuntu. Some lessons are curses.

As far as golden eggs go, there is always a price to pay when you don't own the enchanted goose that lays them. And if you do not pay that price, darkness follows.

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