Benoni’s elderly march for electricity

They say the City of Ekurhuleni has blocked their prepaid electricity meters because they owe rent, but they have no hope of paying their arrears

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About 50 Actonville residents marched to municipal offices on Wednesday to ask for their electricity to be reconnected. Photo: Kimberly Mutandiro

  • On Wednesday about 50 residents of Actonville, Benoni, marched to the City of Ekurhuleni municipal offices demanding electricity.
  • They say they owe huge amounts to the municipality in unpaid rent and the municipality has blocked their prepaid electricity meters.
  • They say they have no hope of paying what they owe.

For the past seven years, Marona Yolandi Britz has lived without electricity in her apartheid-era municipal flat in Actonville, Benoni. She was one of 50 Actonville residents who marched to municipal offices on Wednesday to ask for their electricity meters to be unblocked.

She owes the municipality R80,000 in rent and says she has no hope of ever paying it off. Her electricity meter has been blocked by the municipality.

Britz was retrenched from her job in 2020. She lives off her child’s monthly social security grant. She says with winter drawing closer, she feels that the municipality should take pity on her and unblock her prepaid meter for lighting and heating.

“The municipality told me that it can do nothing and that I must make a payment agreement, but how is that possible without an income?” asked Britz.

On Wednesday, she and other residents, some of them elderly, marched from Moodley Street to the City of Ekurhuleni municipal offices along Khan Street to demand that their electricity meters be unblocked.

They live in eleven blocks of municipal flats that house more than 570 families. According to community representatives, most are without power, their meters blocked due to nonpayment of rent.

The residents want their flats fixed and they want title deeds.

Court action

In 2017, 21 residents applied to the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg and obtained an order to reconnect their electricity, pending finalisation of the main application.

GroundUp has been unable to find the main application or any trace of a final judgment.

City of Ekurhuleni spokesperson Zweli Dlamini told GroundUp that they “appealed the initial judgement and won the appeal. However, we did not evict anyone.”

He was unable to provide the judgment. We will update this article when we are provided with the judgment.

Dlamini said, “If people cannot afford to pay for services, there’s an indigent programme they can apply for.”

The residents say they are unaware of any judgment on the matter.

Quinton Khumalo, an attorney in the case, said, “There was a first [rental] resolution that was presented to the residents in May 2017, which had lower amounts, meaning the rent was affordable. But it was never implemented.

“Instead a second resolution was suddenly presented which has higher rental amounts. This is why residents are up in arms. The residents were ambushed.”

GroundUp has seen an unsigned rental resolution with rents based on household income. Rentals for incomes under R3,500 per month ranged from R403 for a bachelor to R754 for a three-bedroomed flat for 2022.

But Khumalo said the residents had not gone back to court as the community could not pay legal fees, among other reasons.


At the protest on Wednesday, a memorandum was handed over to Jonas Zondo from the mayor’s office.

The memo says families have bought prepaid electricity but cannot use it because their meters are blocked. Elderly people need power to refrigerate their medication and children struggle to study at night without electricity.

They want historic rent debt to be cancelled and rent to be charged according to the rental agreement of 2017.

“Our flats are very old and must therefore be given to residents to own, as they are not repaired, water pipes leak, drains are blocked, and nothing is fixed by the municipality. We need reliable accommodation, and when parents die their children must have a home,” the memo states.

Rochelle Kirstewell, from Flora Court, took over her late mother’s flat in 2017. The lease has not been transferred to her name and as an “illegal tenant” she has not managed to get the electricity reconnected. One of her children is undergoing chemotherapy, and living without electricity is especially difficult.

“The municipality said the flats were not for inheritance and refused to transfer them under my name. Where do they expect me to go? This is the home I grew up in and my only home,” she said.

Pensioner Angela Pillay, who has lived in her flat for 38 years, says her electricity has been blocked for three months. She has borrowed money from loan sharks to try to pay off her debt but has not managed to clear it. Her rent arrears stands at R16,000.

“Our flats are not even cleaned. There is no order, and people relieve themselves everywhere. The municipality just doesn’t care,” said Pillay.

Other residents who are managing to pay rent say their efforts are not being acknowledged, as they are forced to live under the same conditions as those who cannot pay.

Anne May pays R1,740 every month, yet her flat has broken facilities and is never fixed. “They should give me a title deed; that’s all I’m asking for,” she says.

Ekurhuleni spokesperson Dlamini said rental stock flats cannot be transferred for ownership.

Samuel Songo, 79, arrived in his flat in 1989. He pays R1,200 a month but his arrears keep growing. He says his electricity meter was blocked over a month ago. He has asked to move to a cheaper flat but was told that none are available.

“The municipality keeps adding arrears to my debt. What do they expect us to do and where do they expect an elderly man like myself to get the money from?”

TOPICS:  Electricity Local government

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Dear Editor

Why can't they just write it off as they do with Soweto which owes millions and don't pay. Shame on the government. These are poor people. What is the difference? Hopefully they vote for someone else now as they're getting no help.

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