Article about struggles over electricity supplies in South Africa.
“We don’t ask why or when people are cut off, we just switch them back on. Everyone should have electricity.”
- Virginia Setshedi, SECC.
In line with its programme to clear old debts, in 2001 the manager of the state-run electricity company Eskom announced, “The aim is to disconnect at least 75 per cent of Soweto residents.” 20,000 households a month were cut off during 2001 – many times more than were connected by the ANC's great programme to connect millions of black households to the national grid. In Soweto, the cost of one kilowatt unit of electricity is 28 cents, while in Sandton (the ultra-rich area of Jo’burg) it is 16 cents. Big business pays 7 cents, and people in the worst-off rural areas pay 48 cents. Eskom security forces assaulted and bullied members of the community and opened fire on protestors. The community marched to the mayor’s house and pledged to “embark on a campaign of mass non-payment”. After Emergency Electricians in Soweto reconnected 3,000 houses in six months, Eskom announced that it would not be cutting off those who could not pay. The successful results of direct action!
The Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee also went to the home of the Johannesburg Mayor Amos Masondo, and disconnected his water supply. Councillor Rocky Naidoo also had his electricity and water disconnected at his house in May 2001.