of this week Deadly protests In Tembisa further strained relations between the DA-led multiparty coalition and the ANC, which was relegated to the opposition benches after the November 2021 local government elections.
Disgruntled residents took to the streets on Monday in what was meant to be a peaceful protest but which was hijacked by opportunists for their own gain. In addition to the death of four people, the property of the municipality has been severely damaged.
On Wednesday, officials including the Executive Mayor, Tania Campbell, toured the area to engage with the community and assess the extent of the damage.
At the end of the 2021/22 financial year, residents were alerted to the council’s decision to cut free basic electricity from 100kWh per household to 50kWh per month in line with the National Fund’s directive, which came into force on 1 July.
The new provision, however, only applies to what the city calls “disadvantaged” families: those who are in dire need or have an income of no more than R7,000 per month.
“The problem is that people received this relief and once you decide that you are going to take 50 kilowatts and you only give it to those who are registered as poor, in essence, you are ignoring the people who are receiving this service. As relief,” the ANC chief whip at Ekurhuleni Council , said Dzongizwe Dalabathi.
“If you want to adjust downwards, the least you can do is keep the relief, take it to kilowatts but give it to all households in Ekurhuleni and maybe in six months call the households to come to the customer center and apply for destitute relief.”
Dalawathi said that the movement was inevitable when the multi-party coalition decided to withdraw the provision of free electricity when many residents were unemployed and suffering from poverty.
He accused the coalition of approving anti-poor policies, including approving increases in key services above the consumer price index.
“The charges they have imposed are indeed insensitive, unjust and unreasonable.”
The multi-party coalition has accused the ANC of petty politics.
Michael Bash, ActionSA’s chief whip on the council, said the perception that the protests were fueled by the city’s decisions and anti-poor policies was a misrepresentation of the facts.
He said that the National Treasury and the Office of the Auditor General have given instructions to abolish the free electricity system as it is irregular and the government cannot afford to spend it.
“But the ANC apparently stopped and stopped until the Auditor-General came to say it really needed to be in line with national policy.” As a result of this directive, the multi-party government was left with the option of taking unpopular decisions.
Read more at Daily Maverick: “More than 100 Metropolitan Police have been deployed to Tembisa following the deadly riots“
“Believe me, the decision was not taken lightly. We had many meetings, back and forth, and many ideas were applied to the decision.”
Basch said the ANC was “sad that they are not in charge at this time [and are] They are trying to prove that they could have been better by trying to bring down the coalition.”
However, the residents have a different opinion.
“We were never informed about this,” Kutalwano Makofane said. “When we inquired with the municipality, we were told to apply for something that was free, and that made no sense.”
Makofane said some areas in Tembisa have been without power for months and there have been complaints about service delivery.
“It’s sad that people lost their lives, but it really shows that people are angry and if our concerns aren’t addressed, it’s going to stay that way for a long time.”
Another resident accused the city of raising the price of electricity and said it was because they were on the streets.
“We are tired… There was a time when I used to pay R300 for a month’s worth of electricity, but lately it only takes a week. It is unnecessary. The worst part is that even when we try to pay the electricity bill, we are in load shedding, we suffer even more.”
Basch said the city of Ekurhuleni will save about 900 million annually as a result of the revised free basic electricity scheme and the money saved will be redirected to service delivery initiatives.
EFF regional chairperson Nkululeko Dunga criticized the ANC for the mess the city had left due to the free provision of electricity.
“The city does not have cash on hand…so if we miss our daily targets in terms of revenue collection, we will find ourselves in a position where we cannot pay our staff. That is because of financial mismanagement in the previous ANC administration,” he said.
Although the community was dissatisfied with Dunga’s withdrawal of free electricity, he said the municipality provided free water and free electricity above the national standards and said it was not sustainable.
He said that initially the EFF was not satisfied with the budget approved by the city, but finally it was approved on the basis of an agreement not to increase rates and taxes.
“But the increase in water and electricity was inevitable and that is why Eskom increased it,” he said.
“Citi had no choice but to pass this increase on to its consumers.”
Gauteng’s MEC for Human Settlements, Urban Planning and Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Lebogang Mile, visited Tembisa on Wednesday to express his commitment to support the community.
May said he was satisfied with the progress made in discussions with community leaders. He said that he will hold another meeting on Friday and outline the measures to be taken to address the issues raised during the protest.
‘It has nothing to do with it’
Two days before the protests erupted, photos of members of the ANC’s radical Economic Transformation faction, including Ace Magashule, and members of KZN’s “Taliban” group appeared on social media, with some suggesting they had incited the violence.
However, Dalabathi poured cold water on the speculation, claiming that none of the ANC leaders had set foot in Tembisa before the protests as they had gone to attend the party’s national policy conference in Nasrec, Johannesburg.
“The problem is that we are allowing a situation where the DA wants to run away from the real issues that led to the protests. We had nothing to do with these protests, we spent most of our time at policy conferences.
Addressing residents earlier, Ekurhuleni Mayor Tania Campbell said the city would investigate allegations that criminal elements dominated during the riots. Regarding electricity concerns, Campbell said the city has a mechanism in place to curb rising prices and will report back on Friday.
The Gauteng Metropolitan Municipality has initiated measures to accelerate revenue generation initiatives.
In February, the City of Tshwane launched the #TshwaneYaTima (Tshwane switches off) initiative in which government agencies and businesses cut off their services. DM