SOUTH Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has admitted to not knowing what his monthly electricity bill is, despite championing the migration to a prepaid meter system to Soweto residents during a recent election campaign.
“I would be lying to you if I say to you I know what the electricity charges are, I don’t know. I will her ask her [my wife],” quipped Ramaphosa.
The president made the admission while addressing the media during an impromptu round table discussion at the ANC headquarters, Luthuli House, in Johannesburg on Wednesday evening.
In his capacity as the president of the ruling party, he took questions on various issues including the continuous electricity blackouts experienced in Soweto, which owes Eskom R7.5bn, down from R12.8bn after the utility wrote off R5.3bn in debt.
Two weeks ago, Ramaphosa and his party launched the 2021 local government elections campaign in Soweto, visiting Nomzamo informal settlement, Naledi and ward 11 in Chiawelo, where community members complained about continuous Eskom power cuts.
The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that Ramaphosa’s older sister, Ivy, had become a target of angry community members who demanded electricity from her.
The community was so angry about being without electricity for days that they took their grievance to Ramaphosa’s family home on Mhlaba Drive. They demanded that she phone Ramaphosa and tell him to speak to Eskom to reconnect their electricity. They later dispersed when the police arrived.
Since Ramaphosa promised to intervene, Eskom teams have been noticeably more active, according to residents the Sunday Times spoke to last week.
In ward 11 in Chiawelo, where he grew up, residents told Ramaphosa they had not had electricity for about a year and three months.
When TimesLIVE returned to check whether Ramaphosa had fulfilled his promises, we found that old transformers had been replaced. Some residents are still without electricity.
During his visit, Ramaphosa said he found there was a “seeming resistance” by many community members to move to a prepaid platform. He told the community his wife, first lady Tshepo Motsepe, was able to control the family’s electricity consumption because they were on prepaid and “this has worked much better and much cheaper”, he said.
However, on Wednesday evening he conceded that he did not know how much he paid for electricity.
On how to cope with power cuts at his Hyde Park residence, Ramaphosa said: “I guess you will have to have another form of energy like candles or some other type of lighting and I guess it does put some type of exertion on the household when the power cuts are longer.
“Your food stuff can be spoilt and can go bad [off] in the fridge and I think we manage and deal with power cuts in different types of ways. It is a serious problem and one does not want to make light of it because it affects people’s lives and sometimes their health.”
Ramaphosa said power cuts and load-shedding were a countrywide problem. “There are different types of power cuts. There are those that are as a result of load-shedding, when Eskom is trying to balance its own power generation and has to resort to whatever levels, and so we all experience power cuts on a possible regional basis.”
The other type, he said, were the ones experienced by people who were victims of illegal connections, when the power substations explode because they cannot cope with the load. “There are those other power cuts caused by people not paying.
“Eskom is just too big to fail. We cannot allow Eskom to fail, but in order for us to not let it fail, we also have to act as South Africans to ensure that it does not fail.”
Ramaphosa said the state needed to support Eskom, while consumers needed to do their bit by paying for electricity. Those who could not pay should get on the indigent list so that they receive subsidised electricity, he added.