Elderly woman fights for life after Emalahleni power cuts halt oxygen machine

23 February 2017 - 12:54
By Naledi Shange
Esther Kemp, who almost died due to the electricity interruptions in Emalahleni.
Image: Yolande Kemp Esther Kemp, who almost died due to the electricity interruptions in Emalahleni.

An elderly woman is fighting for her life after Emalahleni power cuts rendered her oxygen machine useless.

Esther Kemp was found half-conscious at home by her daughter‚ Yolande‚ last week.

“We didn’t have water or power at my home so I said to my husband that we should go have a bath at my mom’s house as she had water. But when we got there‚ she didn’t open her door and her power was off‚” said Yolande.

Eskom cut power supplies to Emalahleni because the municipality wasn't paying its bills.

They entered the house using a spare key and found her mother barely conscious in the bedroom. There was no way to give her oxygen.

Yolande said she phoned for an ambulance and paramedics rushed to give her mother oxygen and take her to hospital. “We were running [around] in a house without power‚ trying to get her to hospital‚” she said.

Her mother is being treated at Life Cosmos Hospital for fluid in her lungs. She blames municipal manager Theo van Vuuren for her mother’s condition. “I had sent many messages to Theo. I begged them to switch on the power because my mom needed it‚” she said. Yolande says her family has done all it can to “survive” the water and electricity crisis in Witbank. “My father passed away in December. He was always starting the generator when the power went off and now‚ my mom lives alone. It’s not like she is incapable of taking care of herself but she can’t start the generator alone‚” said Yolande.

On Wednesday‚ the power utility suspended the limited interruptions to Emalahleni. "Eskom feels the pain inflicted on the members of the public and the unintended consequences of the disruption of essential services‚ in particular access to water‚" the energy utility said.

The interruptions have been suspended until the March 3.

"This gesture from Eskom will allow defaulting municipalities some time to remedy the breach and also bring some normality to the affected communities."

While Yolande has welcomed Eskom’s move‚ she says they will find themselves in the same situation again soon. “It’s good news for now but what will happen in the future. How will the municipality pay Eskom?” she said. The municipality owes Eskom nearly R1-billion.