Media statement - 6 July 2011
Eskom commits to restoring power to all legally connected customers in Chiawelo subject to safety considerations
Wednesday, 06 July 2011: Eskom has restored power to most parts of Chiawelo, in Soweto, and will restore power to the remaining areas once it is safe to do so. This follows violent action yesterday, which focused on the tamper-proof meters that Eskom had installed in the area four years ago as part of a programme aimed at combating electricity theft.
Last week, 115 of the 4 000 meters that had been installed in 2007 as part of a pilot project in Chiawelo were vandalised by criminal individuals. When Eskom returned yesterday to repair the damaged meters, a small group of people resorted to violent protest, setting fire to property belonging to local ward councillors and their relatives.
The SA Police Service was called. However, Eskom had to withdraw its technicians from Soweto, under police escort, following threats to their lives. It was also forced, for safety reasons, to switch off a circuit feeding Chiawelo, cutting power to hundreds of residents.
Over 90% of Chiawelo households pay for their electricity, and Eskom regrets that many of those whose power it was forced to cut are paying customers who are legally connected. Eskom will restore power to all legally connected customers as soon as possible, subject to safety considerations.
The tamper-proof meters, known as “split meters”, and the steel enclosures in which they are housed are part of a programme designed to curb electricity theft and provide a safe and reliable supply of electricity to the residents of Soweto. The Chiawelo meters were installed in 2007 in consultation with the local community. The results from the Chiawelo pilot project have been encouraging. Since the project was implemented, there have been no unplanned outages in Chiawelo, no public fatalities, and no safety incidents in the electricity distribution network in the area. Average energy losses have decreased from 60% to 15%, and the energy delivered has been reduced by 50%, indicating that the community is using electricity more efficiently.
Illegal connections and electricity theft are key causes of the overloading that has been the cause of many of the power outages experienced in Soweto and elsewhere in Gauteng this winter. Eskom is engaging with communities in an effort to combat this.
Eskom deplores the violent conduct seen in Chiawelo and urges communities and their leaders to work with the company to ensure that safe and reliable electricity services can be delivered for all.