Law enforcement officials in Johannesburg found themselves in a tense standoff with residents of Naturena as City Power embarked on a disconnection drive for non-paying customers.
The utility had singled out the suburb, located south of Johannesburg, claiming that it owed millions to the municipality. However, residents came out in numbers, fiercely resisting the operation.
The residents of Naturena were astonished by the unprecedented presence of law enforcement in their area. Despite the alarmingly high levels of crime that they have had to endure, they had never witnessed such a large contingent of officers in their neighbourhood.
Lulama Memela, a resident in the area, became embroiled in a heated argument with City Power officials when the power was abruptly cut off in her entire street.
Frustrated and angered by the utility’s actions, she voiced her concerns about the unfair targeting of her community.
Memela argued that City Power should prioritize dealing with illegal connections at the nearby Freedom Park informal settlement before focusing on her area.
She lamented, “I mean, they bring JMPD [Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department] officers. This is not JMPD officers’ work. JMPD officers are supposed to be there in the licensing department, there in the streets chasing criminals [and] not here in our houses. It’s pure intimidation bringing JMPD cars.”
Lulama Memela (red shird, Naturena Resident, gets into a heated argument with Joburg City Power Spokesperson Isaac Mangena.
City Power is conducting a cut-off operation in the South Johannesburg suburb. TCG pic.twitter.com/MKJtcjdRqH
— EWN Reporter (@ewnreporter) September 19, 2023
Many other residents echoed Memela’s sentiments and expressed their disappointment with City Power’s blanket approach. They argued that each case should be dealt with individually, taking into account the specific circumstances of each customer.
City Power’s disconnection drive has undoubtedly sparked controversy and raised important questions about its methods and priorities. While it is crucial for utility companies to tackle non-payment issues, it is equally important to ensure fairness and consider the impact on vulnerable communities.
One of the key concerns raised by residents is the lack of attention given to illegal connections in other areas, such as the nearby Freedom Park informal settlement. These illegal connections not only pose a safety hazard but also contribute to the non-payment issue. Ignoring these connections only exacerbates the problem and unfairly burdens law-abiding customers like those in Naturena.
City Power must recognize the need for a targeted and comprehensive approach to address both non-payment and illegal connections. By focusing solely on disconnections, they risk alienating the very communities they serve and undermining their own efforts to improve revenue collection.