Thursday, December 17, 2009

In Soweto 60% don't pay for electricity - but it's not a problem, someone else is

"We are fighting for what the government said in 1994 [the first democratic elections]," Levy says as he fiddles with his pliers.

"People shall have all the resources free of charge. Water, electricity, schooling and health. After we have voted for them they have changed. It's not illegal."

SHOOT: That's nice. Everything for free. Sounds like a magical world where you can get things for free and for nothing - assuming someone else pays for it. You can always blame Apartheid and have Apartheid pay for your water, lights, school etc and then you can take nice naps in the afternoon.
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 Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee electricians Levy and Walter in Soweto
Nobody enjoys paying the bills, but in the townships of South Africa it has become an increasingly optional activity.

"On Friday I was having a nap in the afternoon when there was a knock on the door. The next thing I knew I was disconnected," she says.

Sowetan resident Christine Sonile

She has to support three grandchildren on a monthly pension payment of 1,000 rand ($130 or £80).

Her face creased with both worry and old age, Ms Sonile explains that each month she paid the electricity company 100 rand.

One look at her bill shows it was not nearly enough.

Accumulated over 20 years her balance is a staggering 66,000 rand.

"My granny's too old, she can't live without electricity."

But thanks to Walter and Levy, the lights will soon be back on.

In the street outside Ms Sonile's house they remove the cover of the electricity distribution box and install a new circuit breaker.

 Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee electrician Levy, in Soweto

Such is the culture of non-payment in Soweto that it is estimated that 60% of people here do not pay anything.

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