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‘We want water, we want service delivery’ — disgruntled Joburg residents take to the streets

‘We want water, we want service delivery’ — disgruntled Joburg residents take to the streets
From left: Johannesburg East residents embark on a protest march against declining service delivery in Kensington and Bez Valley | Kensington resident Jackie Vermaak says she is gatvol of at random power and water cuts. | An official from the office of Johannesburg mayor Kabelo Gwamamda receives a petition from protesters at the Darras Centre on Tuesday, 5 March 2024. (Photos: Bheki Simelane)

In what a resident described as an ‘unusual’ occurrence, residents in Johannesburg’s eastern suburbs took to the streets on Tuesday to protest against electricity and water cuts.

‘I’m fed up. My main thing is the power outages. My dad is 83 years old. He is on oxygen. I need power to run his oxygen machine,” said Jackie Vermaak, a 56-year-old resident of Kensington in Johannesburg’s east.

Vermaak uses a generator to run her father’s oxygen machine during power cuts.

She was one of about 150 marchers whose patience for the declining service delivery in the area had run out. Clad in black, residents from Kensington and Bezuidenhout Valley staged a protest march on Tuesday, complaining of random electricity and water cuts.

Duane Riley, a Kensington resident and the convener of the march, said an electricity cable in the area was recently damaged.

“The quick fix was for City Power to install an inadequately suitable cable, which resulted in power tripping every two to three days.

“City Power blamed us for using too much power, which the infrastructure cannot handle, which is nonsense because we pay for the electricity and water that we use,” Riley said.  

The community say they have been battling load shedding, load reduction and water shedding for some years. They blamed the area’s problems on a lack of maintenance of the electricity and water infrastructure.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Why Johannesburg’s taps keep running dry — An expert explains

The protesters chanted as they made their way from Rhodes Park in Kensington to the Darras Centre where officials from Johannesburg Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda’s office were waiting to receive their petition.

“Fix our roads, no illegal connections, we want water, we want service delivery, we deserve better, enough is enough,” the marchers called in unison.

“No more corruption, no more potholes, drug-free suburbs, we want safety, save our youth, save our schools, save our legacy, we pay for our service, we deserve good service, we deserve competent officers, we take charge,” they continued.

When asked how long the problems in the area had been going on, Vermaak chuckled sarcastically before responding: “Ah, so many years. Load shedding … the illegal dumping is terrible, the drugs, the crime has gone up. It’s very bad and it’s been going on for many years.”

Owen van der Poel, a 67-year-old Bez Valley resident, said, “I’m fed up with illegal dumping, the overcrowding of properties and litter.”

Van der Poel said the overcrowding was caused by people who built rooms on their properties and rented them out.

He said they had reported the problems to the authorities, but received no response.

“We are constantly faced with outages and we are completely powerless,” said Fleur Honeywell, a 54-year-old Kensington resident and one of the leaders of the demonstration.

“It’s not our geysers that are draining the power, it’s illegal connections,” she said.

“Our suburbs are one of the oldest in the area and they were designed for a minimal number of people per house. Our water infrastructure is collapsing. The pipes are bursting,” Honeywell said.

Lack of maintenance

Nicolas Dieltiens (48), a Kensington resident, believes the electricity and water problems are the result of a lack of maintenance over the past 30 years.

“It’s unusual for a suburb like ours to protest the lack of service delivery,” Dieltiens said.

“Services are parcelled out by a tender system that has shown that there is a lot of graft allowed to creep into the system of delivery.’’

Read more in Daily Maverick: City of Joburg’s Floyd Brink highlights challenges of service delivery and revenue collection

Anisa Mazimpaka, an official from Gwamanda’s office, received the petition.

She said solutions to the problems raised by the community would be provided by the mayor’s newly formed inner-city submayoral committee and the mayor’s office would respond in a fortnight.

“I would like to bring it to the attention of the community that the mayor is quite passionate about most of the issues you have highlighted,” Mazimpaka said.

The residents will take to the streets in protest again on Saturday, 9 March. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Lavinia Schlebusch says:

    African National Corruption party working hard to totally Frack up the country. You gotta admire their consistency in their corruption practices, lack of accountability, sheer ineptness and total lack of remorse or any hint of contrition at how badly they have Fracked up.

  • Kristina Gubic says:

    From 29 November – just as people had bought month end groceries – until 12 December 2023, Kensington and Bez Valley experienced 12 consecutive days without power after Observatory sub station caught fire. We were told that major upgrades and replacement of old oil lubricated cables, decommissioned in most countries due to the risk of polluting groundwater, would ensure less volatility of the area, but in January we had another 5 consecutive days unplanned outage when relays between Sebenza, Observatory and Bellevue Sub station tripped, again. We never receive clear and credible technical explanations of what the actual problem is. Nobody can tell us what the “upgrades” cost and what work was carried out in December. There is no compensation for spoiled food or vulnerable citizens needing oxygen, there is no additional resources being given to Cleveland and Jeppe Police station to implement additional night patrols while we spend countless nights in the dark, listening while thieves steal cables and strip our breakers from pillar boxes on the pavement. What is happening in Kensington is emblematic of Johannesburg’s decay and failure by the city council to maintain infrastructure and proactively deal with densification by adding power to the grid and regulating illegal building. Google Earth is our witness to the many households adding backyard shacks without a care of servitude rules, drainage, noise, illegal dumping. I resent every penny I pay the city in rates.

  • Fernando Moreira says:

    just vote DA

  • Deon Schoeman says:

    People keep on paying for services they dont get ….iThekwini set the tone that all should follow !!

  • Kristina Gubic says:

    Just scroll through the Twitter feed for City Power on any given day and see how many unplanned outages and faults are affecting our city at any given time…. 2000 faults on average are unresolved at the start of the day! There needs to be a clear distinction in fault reporting to determine whether it relates to mechanical breakdown or crime (cable theft). Then City Power needs to explain how they apportion their budget for maintenance, upgrades and security respectively. As a resident of Kensington for four decades, I am exhausted at having to initiate and explain to new contractors on rotation that attend to our faults. We need consistent teams, institutional memory and knowledge transfer. Contractors spend hours looking for keys to sub stations and boxes and more time figuring out the history of our ageing wiring infrastructure before they even get to work. We strongly suspect collusion of contractors with vandals to manufacture a fault. Institutional memory is just as important at municipal level where the constant bickering of coalition politics has destabilised our city. Voters are disrespected every day by the parade of unqualified MECs and mayors we have had to endure. We voted for a DA majority. Mpho Phalatsi is our mayor. We need laws that stop undermining voters with illegitimate “votes of no confidence” every 100 days.

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