'Eskom will provide electricity': Ramaphosa tells Soweto residents during election campaign

19 September 2021 - 12:41
By Amanda Khoza
ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa in Soweto on the local government elections campaign trail on September 18 2021.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa in Soweto on the local government elections campaign trail on September 18 2021.

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa has promised to prioritise providing electricity to Soweto residents before they cast their votes in the 2021 local government elections on November 1.

“We are going to ensure that Eskom does restore electricity. Some of the transformers have blown up and those are the technical issues that Eskom is going to deal with and we are going to be working together to make sure that Eskom deals with it,” said Ramaphosa on Saturday.

Despite receiving a hostile reception from angry supporters earlier, Ramaphosa said “it was a good day in the office”, after kicking off the party’s local government elections campaign on the first day of the voter registration weekend.

The president of the ruling party, who was flanked by Gauteng premier and ANC provincial chairperson David Makhura and the party’s head of elections, Fikile Mbalula, went door-to-door and addressed several community meetings in Soweto.

In the Nomzamo informal settlement in zone 10, residents showed the party the middle finger, telling Ramaphosa and his delegation to “f**k off”. However in Chiawelo in zone 4,  residents were more receptive and listened to Ramaphosa promise to address their concerns.

In Naledi, black burnt tyre marks and stones blocking the road showed that the community had taken their anger to the streets to protest against the lack of electricity.

While Ramaphosa addressed some residents from the back of an ANC truck, across the road, some angry community members tried to disrupt the proceedings by blowing vuvuzela’s and singing struggle songs like Silwela amalungelo ethu.

“We had a wonderful process of engagement with our people in three places. In Nomzamo informal settlement the issue that was raised was electricity. In Chiawelo, the same issue was raised and in Naledi, it was the same,” said Ramaphosa addressing the media after speaking to several residents.

“The issue of electricity, more than any other issue, has been the overriding issue that our people are complaining about and in many ways they feel aggrieved in the way that electricity was cut off, in some cases, for a long time,” said a concerned Ramaphosa. 

“In Naledi ... they have expressed their anger through various protests and I felt together with the premier, the mayor and other executive members, that we should go out there and meet our people and confront the problem, rather than run away and rely on the remote way of dealing with the problem.”

This, said Ramaphosa, proved to be extremely helpful. “We were able to hear the stories head on. Ahead of that I was able to have a conversation with the minister and Eskom and had a bit of an outline of what are some of the challenges.”

In Chiawelo, where Ramaphosa grew up, residents complained about the cost of electricity. “There was also a seeming resistance by a number of community members to move to a prepaid platform and I spent time dealing with the issue of moving to prepaid and I think I was able to get through to them.”

Ramaphosa told residents that his wife was able to control the family’s electricity usage because they too were on prepaid and “this has worked much better and much cheaper”.

He said many people told him that they could not afford the high electricity tariffs. “They want a R200 flat rate ... Some of them complained when some of them stop paying, Eskom cuts off the electricity for the entire community, and I felt that was an injustice because Eskom should be able to see who is paying and not paying.”

Ramaphosa also spoke to the community about the rampant cable theft and illegal connections. “I could sense that this is something that makes them extremely unhappy because they know that illegal connections cause an overload on the transformers and then they blow up and then it takes time for Eskom to restore the electricity.”

For Ramaphosa, the underlying issue was that electricity was a human rights issue. “I just can’t imagine how anyone in this day and age live without electricity. Young people don’t have electricity to charge their computers, their mobile phones and a whole range of things. It also touches on the health of people who rely on oxygen as well.”

Another issue that Ramaphosa was asked to address was unemployment and crime. “All in all, I found a very good vibe in all the places that we went to. Of course people are angry and agitated over electricity but we were able to engage without avoidance and even running away. I feel comfortable in the way that we engaged with them,” he said promising to follow up on the electricity issue.

Ramaphosa went about encouraging the young and old who are eligible to vote to use this voter registration weekend to check, update and verify their status on the voters' roll and go out in their numbers to cast their votes on November 1.

ANC head of elections Fikile Mbalula said the campaign started well in various parts of the country with glitches in some provinces, which have since been attended to by the IEC. “As the ANC, it is to be expected that communities use this period to raise whatever that has bedevilled them over the years. Some of the people have not had electricity for three years.”

Mbalula said electricity is one of the issues that local government has been grappling with. “It is no surprise that when we go into communities people start raising their issues because who else will they raise them with because we are the incumbent. They are raising these issue so that we can attend to them,” said Mbalula.

He said it was important for public representatives to face challenges head on. “It is election season and we know the challenges that we face as the party. We are not yet at the point where we can say that we are confident of victory.”

He said the ANC was willing to work to earn the peoples' trust back, “to get a decisive victory. We have seen the coalitions, which is the choice of the people but we are not intending to get into coalitions, but they are a result of a democratic process.” He said the ruling party would go all out to canvass citizens to go out to register and vote in the upcoming local elections.

On Sunday Ramaphosa is scheduled to take the election campaign to various areas in Mpumalanga.