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Soweto Residents Crippled by Eskom’s Equipment Failure Impact



Soweto Urban

Amidst the ongoing battle against rolling blackouts, residents of Soweto find themselves caught in a relentless struggle for electricity supply, leaving small and medium-sized enterprises (SMMEs) without a source of income and no end to their woes.

Bafikile Xaba, a pensioner whose small business shut down after the transformer in Molapo exploded last December, expressed the frustrations felt by many Sowetans. The explosion affected 114 houses and left residents grappling with prolonged power outages. Xaba highlighted the dire situation faced by those who heavily rely on electricity, particularly with the approaching winter months. She emphasised the vulnerability of elderly individuals with health issues and lamented the impact on her livelihood.

Soweto and other townships are experiencing unplanned and lengthy power outages due to the worsening condition of Eskom’s mini substations and transformers in recent years. A 2022 report from the power utility revealed a shortage of these crucial components, with a high number requiring repairs or replacements. This strain has severely hampered Eskom’s ability to promptly restore supply to the affected areas across Gauteng.

Urban News visited Xaba’s home, where she had been running her tavern outlet since the 90s. Initially started as a source of income after leaving her job, the establishment gained popularity among locals. Before the explosion, a brewery truck would make weekly stock deliveries ranging from 50 to 100 crates. On good days, Xaba’s sales would reach R7000, and her business also served as a distributor for smaller taverns that frequently purchased stock from her.

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However, Xaba has been forced to operate on a much smaller scale to make ends meet since the incident. She now orders a reduced number of cases and relies on others with electricity to provide ice blocks for keeping the beer cold. Xaba expressed her concerns about the uncertain future of her business and the financial challenges she faces, contemplating the possibility of taking on debt from sources other than the brewery.

According to Eskom, the current debt owed by Soweto residents exceeds R2.2 billion, with 168,178 customers, of which 90,513 are classified as zero buyers. This means that over 60% of Soweto customers do not pay for or purchase the electricity they consume. The township faces illegal connections, cable theft, and widespread non-payment of electricity by its residents.

JD Funerals is just a few meters from Xaba’s home on Mmakau Street, a funeral home that has been operating in Molapo since 1932. However, even they have not been spared from the explosion’s impact. The business has been relying on a 60kVA diesel generator to continue operations. This unexpected crisis has resulted in significant financial losses, with the generator requiring frequent refuelling, amounting to approximately R30,000 per week or R120,000 per month.

Tsholo Tsotesi, the Managing Director at JD Funerals, described the sudden expense surge as an extreme burden on their business. The generator has become a lifeline, especially for their cold storage facility, allowing them to continue their essential work. Despite the challenges, they remain resilient despite these unforeseen expenditures.

Mamphi Mabe, a part-time florist in Johannesburg who also ventured into the rental business to support her family, shared the bleak picture of what landlords in Soweto have been enduring. The electricity issue forced two tenants to vacate their rented rooms, leaving Mabe only one tenant. This loss of rental income, combined with the rising cost of living and food prices, has devastated her ability to provide for her family and save for her daughter’s tertiary education.


The situation in Soweto paints a bleak and challenging reality for residents and business owners alike as they grapple with the prolonged effects of the electricity crisis. The absence of a reliable power supply continues to inflict financial hardships, leaving many uncertain about the future and searching for viable solutions to sustain their livelihoods.

Source: Impact of Eskom’s equipment failure cripples Soweto residents

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Photo: Twitter / @Soweto Urban

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