Johannesburg - Furious residents of Naturena, who were the latest victims of City Power’s cut-off operation yesterday, have vowed to reconnect themselves to the grid as early as last night.
This comes after City Power, the police, JMPD officers and other city officials conducted a cut-off operation in one of the biggest suburbs in Joburg South.
“We don’t want you here. If you are here to cut us off, you must leave our area and instead focus your energies on fixing potholes. Look at the potholes you are driving into. Shouldn’t you rather fix these potholes or go to start your operation in Freedom Park, where people are left alone while being illegally connected to the grid?” one furious resident shouted.
Other residents claimed that City Power was trying to install meters, something they were against as the system was corrupt.
“If we are forced to connect ourselves illegally, we will do that. We are black people, and we are prepared to do that. All they want is to install meters, which is a corrupt tender scam that we do not want,” a resident by the name of Lulama Memela shouted.
Last week, the municipal officials and police were forced to abandon their operation after things got volatile in the Joburg city centre following a similar operation at non-paying flats on Betty Street.
This time around, the power utility targeted the Joburg South suburb for owing the municipality millions, but residents said it should be dealing with illegal connections at the nearby Freedom Park Informal Settlement first.
The Naturena community owes the City of Johannesburg a collective R309 million in unpaid electricity bills, while over R10 billion is owed by non-paying residents and businesses around the whole municipality.
City Power said it was owed over R90m in the past three years by Naturena residents who had managed to bypass the system. It said out of 3 000 registered prepaid customers in the area, only about half were paying for their electricity in the area.
Yet again, the operation had to be called off, with City Power general manager for revenue collection, Thamsanqa Mathiso, saying they had to pull back to protect their technicians.
“We didn’t do everything as we said; we assessed the security of the area, and we knew that it was going to be aggressive. In fact, we said we did not want to spend more than two hours, so in our planning, we knew we were not going to spend more than two hours because we knew that that community would regroup and would have to step aside. I think we have achieved; we might not have disconnected everybody, but we have achieved,” he said.
City Power spokesperson Isaac Mangena indicated that they had tried to engage residents of the area on numerous occasions, but their attempts had not yielded the desired results.
“In one of the meetings held in April, the same community raised their objections about paying for poor quality of services, requesting that their electricity infrastructure be normalised and something be done about the rampant cable theft incidents in the area,” he said.