Eskom demands Evaton households pay for broken transformer

Residents have to each pay R6,000 over six months, otherwise they won’t be reconnected, says the power utility

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Evaton residents Anna Majola, Matshidiso Motloung, Masinati Kheswa, and Mareka Motholo say their homes have not had electricity in years. Photo: Silver Sibiya

  • Some households in Evaton under the Emfuleni Local Municipality are being forced to pay to have power restored after the transformers supplying their areas stopped working.
  • Eskom told residents that they have to each pay R6,000 over six months to have their transformer replaced and switched on again.
  • One of the transformers, supplying about 118 houses, blew and stopped working in October 2021. And another was hit by lightning in March this year.
  • Eskom says that areas in Evaton have high illegal connection rates, meter bypasses, and unauthorised operation on the network. This overloads transformers.

It’s been almost three years since some households in Evaton, just outside of Johannesburg, have had electricity. They claim they have been neglected by the embattled Emfuleni Local Municipality.

Premier Panyaza Lesufi is expected to oversee the switching on of transformers in Evaton and Sebokeng on Tuesday, as part of the Transformer Replacement programme to electrify communities that have been in the dark for extended periods. A community leader told GroundUp by midday on Tuesday that their power was still off in Evaton West.

This follows an announcement by Eskom that residents would have to contribute R500 monthly or up to R6,000 in total to have two transformers supplying their area repaired and switched on again.

According to residents, one of the transformers, supplying about 118 houses, blew and stopped working in October 2021.

Mareka Motholo said, “We don’t know what kind of transformer they will install because if they bring the small one like the one we had, we will still have blackouts.”

He said, “Last year, we started collecting R500 from all homes connected to the transformer. It was paid to the account number given to us by Eskom this year, but up to this day, we don’t know why Eskom has not yet fixed the transformer.”

Motholo said the power utility insisted that everyone pay regardless of their income thresholds. “Majority of the people around here don’t work, but we had to pay that money.”

Maggie Maboya runs the Katlego University of Early Childhood Development (ECD) which accommodates about 200 young children. She said the lack of electricity has impacted the day-to-day running of the creche.

“We struggle to heat water, so we leave containers out in the sun on warm days, but we mostly use firewood. When we cook, we have to use gas but it’s costly,” she said. “Our classrooms are fitted with air-conditioners, but we can’t use them. Summer is the worst nightmare because it gets very hot in the classrooms for our young ones.”

Maboya said using candles to light the rooms isn’t safe, particularly when working with young children.

The issue in this area is that the community has grown, and the transformer was overburdened by illegal connections and some people were believed to have tampered with their electricity boxes.

Meanwhile a few metres away, nearly 70 houses have been without electricity since 21 March when their transformer was hit by lightning. Residents here say they were also told by Eskom that they need to pay a reconnection fee before the transformer can be fixed.

Eskom responds

Gauteng Eskom spokesperson Amanda Qithi confirmed that Evaton West is on its list of communities in need of new transformers.

“Eskom is experiencing a very high number of incidents of illegal connections, meter bypassing and tampering, unauthorised operations on the network, infrastructure vandalism and theft, as well as the non-payment and non-purchasing of electricity tokens, which is constantly on the rise. Over the years we repeatedly replaced and repaired failed equipment without holding customers accountable.”

“When the failure is due to illegal electricity activities, we have implemented stringent control measures as it is financially unsustainable for Eskom to continuously replace these, especially without any return on investment,” said Qithi.

She said that to date Eskom has replaced 137 transformers in the Vaal area, including Sebokeng, Orange Farm and Driezik and Stretford that fall under Orange Farm. “The replacement process is not only implemented in Vaal, but in all Eskom areas of supply in Gauteng,” she said.

“As part of the process, 60% of the disconnected customers have to pay R6,052. Customers that cannot settle this amount in full are encouraged to enter into a Deferred Payment Arrangement (DPA) and make an initial minimum payment of R500. The balance can be paid over a period of six months. Once the threshold of 60% of the payment is reached, Eskom will start the process of restoring the power supply. Depending on the availability of all material, the repair work would then be undertaken, during which transformers would be replaced, damaged meters changed, and cables replaced.

“Customers who do not pay the reconnection fee in full or enter into the DPA wherein they pay the initial R500, will remain disconnected when the failed equipment has been replaced or repaired,” she said.

Qithi added that the power utility loses millions of rands to illegal connections, tampering and vandalism.

TOPICS:  Electricity

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