Johannesburg – Residents of Naturena – some who live in elegant double-storey houses – are up in arms over disconnections of electricity supply in the area.
A resident took issue with the double-storey reference on Tuesday saying they may have been rich when they built the houses but things have since changed.
Another resident said City Power should first disconnect electricity in Soweto even though some parts were billed directly by Eskom.
“I think we are too nice in Naturena,” the resident said, adding, “That is why City Power comes here first”.
However, City Power Spokesperson Isaac Mangena said: “Today’s operation was the first in a series of cut-offs that will be carried out in the area to enforce payment of services.
“We urge those who were cut off to visit the City of Joburg offices to fix their accounts and start paying for the services to avoid being disconnected.”
Responding to complaints by residents that City Power cut off a whole street – including houses whose electricity bills were up-to-date – Mangena said: “In Malta Street, we were forced to switch off the whole street block due to its historically low levels of vending”.
Mangena added: “The homeowners – one of whom owes City Power R267 000, refused our technicians to enter their properties during today’s operation”.
City Power technicians were accompanied by a huge number of SA Police Service officers, prompting a resident to say when they report crime law enforcers are nowhere to be seen.
Unperturbed by the criticism, Mangena said City Power will continue disconnecting “whole streets” where there are non-paying customers.
“We won’t hesitate to do the same in other sections of Naturena, which will unfortunately affect some of the paying customers,” the City Power spokesperson said.
Mangena said City Power successfully cut off defaulting and non-paying customers in Naturena despite resistance from some residents.
“In a bid to recoup over R1.2 billion owed to the Reuven Service Delivery Center alone, City Power, joined by the Joburg Water and other City Departments, has disconnected around 20 customers in Naturena today as a starting point,” said Mangena.
“Those customers in the residential area owe a combined amount of over R5 million.
“All in all Naturena has an outstanding debt of over R309 million with the City of Joburg.”
Mangena said in the past three years, City Power has lost around R90 million through customers unlawfully bypassing their electricity meters in Naturena.
“We have about 3 000 prepaid customers in that area, and only half are paying their electricity, while the rest have bypassed,” said Mangena.
“During the cut-off operation, backed by the SAPS and JMPD [Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department], we also removed some of the electricity infrastructure to avoid having recurring cases of illegal connections.”
During the operation, disgruntled residents complained that they were not “properly engaged” on the need for them to pay for their electricity.
Responding to the claim, Mangena said: “As City Power, we have engaged with the community of Naturena on numerous occasions in the past 10 years”.
Mangena added: “In one of the meetings held in April this year, the same community raised their objections about paying for poor quality of services, requesting that their electricity infrastructure be normalised and something be done about the rampant cable theft incidents in the area.
“Following that engagement City Power spent over R9 million, fixing the cable theft problem in the area, and work was underway to normalize the network, which includes the installation of prepaid meters.
“The agreement with this affluent community of Naturena was that once the cable theft crisis was dealt with, they would allow our teams to install meters and then start paying for services.
“We urge those who were cut off to visit the City of Joburg offices to fix their accounts and start paying for the services to avoid being disconnected.
“We, however, wish to thank all customers in the area who are paying for their services.
“Unfortunately, their security of supply is increasingly being compromised by those who are not paying for services, which will in future make it difficult for City Power to attend to the outage calls from Naturena.”