power outages in Diepsloot - Eskom interview

Covid in the Kasi – Eskom Interview

COVID IN THE KASI – LOCKDOWN DAY 102

Diepsloot residents have been plagued by power outages since the beginning of June. Covid in the Kasi citizen journalist, Katlego, took the initiative of interviewing the ward councillor and Eskom media officials to find out why this is happening and what solutions they are working on.

Cllr. Mabuke informed us that Eskom is busy fixing transformers but will not restore electricity to Extensions 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 until residents’ fines are paid up. He recommended that we seek further information directly from Eskom and referred us to media official, Tumi Moloi.

Katlego: What is the reason behind power cuts in Diepsloot?

Tumi Moloi: Eskom has noted a significant rise in network overloading resulting from illegal connections across the high density areas of Gauteng. This overloading is also apparent in areas with multiple or backyard dwellings, bypassed meters, and vandalism of the electricity infrastructure. These illegal connections and tampering with Eskom equipment result in damages to electrical infrastructure such as transformers, mini-substations and substations in these areas. Transformers and mini-substations often fail or explode due to this overloading. These illegal connections, meter bypasses and other theft-related activities on our infrastructure are the leading cause for the sporadic and prolonged electricity interruptions, which leave the communities without power for days. Diepsloot is one such area.

Katlego: How is the situation affecting Eskom?

Tumi Moloi: Eskom is not in a position to continuously replace mini substations and pole mounted transformers in particular areas where the residents are not paying for their electricity. Non-payment of electricity does not only impact on the security of supply for paying customers, but also contributes to increased energy and revenue losses coupled with increased operational costs. Eskom replaces mini substations and pole mounted transformers on a regular basis due to overloading caused by illegal connections. This is not sustainable, and not in line with Eskom’s revenue management practice and efforts to improve on its financial and operational objectives.

Katlego: How is Eskom planning to resolve the issue?

Tumi Moloi: Eskom continues to safeguard its assets by auditing, removing illegal connections and fixing bypassed meters in an effort to protect the network to operate optimally according to design capacity. Eskom is also implementing load reduction in identified areas with significantly high non-technical losses mainly in residential areas such as Diepsloot. It is Eskom’s immediate response is to safeguard its assets from repeated failure and explosions as a result of overloading caused by illegal connections, meter bypasses and tampering with electricity infrastructure that are on an increase. Eskom continues to record a substantially high trend of energy demand during peak periods in the mornings and evenings between 05:00 and 09:00, and again between 17:00 and 20:00 respectively.

Katlego: What can the community do to help Eskom resolve the issue?

Tumi Moloi: Eskom encourages communities to take ownership of the electricity infrastructure that supplies their areas and ensure that it’s safeguarded against illegal connections, vandalism and theft as these lead to the network overload which causes the infrastructure to fail or explode and subsequently leave customers with prolonged outages. We also urge customers to help us manage the load by switching off appliances such as heaters, stoves and geysers and only use when absolute necessary in order to stabilise the network at the local level without interruptions. We wish to also urge the community of Diepsloot to cooperate with Eskom by refraining from disrupting its technicians when operating in the area. Recently, Eskom technicians were attacked and pelted with stones in the area when they tried to remove illegal connections. Such behaviour is condemned as it places our employees at risk. We will always withdraw our employees in any area when their safety is threatened. This means that the area will remain without the Eskom support until we deem it safe for our employees to return to the area.

Katlego: According to the community, Eskom technicians are corrupt. What is Eskom doing to deal with corrupt technicians?

Tumi Moloi: Corrupt activities by Eskom employees are to be reported to Eskom and those implicated in such behaviour will be reported to the police and will also be subjected to the Eskom internal disciplinary processes. We therefore appeal to members of the public to report such illegal activities involving both Eskom and non-Eskom employees. The Eskom toll – free crime line number is 0800 11 27 22.

Katlego: How is Eskom planning to deal with illegal connections?

Tumi Moloi: The instant a customer is found to have tampered with a meter, through bypassing or any illegal means, such is disconnected, and illegal connections removed. Subsequently, a fine of R6 052.56 is issued to the customer. The customer’s supply is only restored once full payment has been made or the customer has signed a deferred payment agreement (DPA), in which case the customer can pay the fine within a six month period. Going forward, the customer purchasing pattern is closely monitored and where there is any suspicion a follow-up visit is made to the customer. A further penalty of a higher amount is then issued where a contravention has been found, up to the point where the entire electricity installation is removed. Should the customer still wish to have electricity, a new application would have to be made.

Overloading and vandalism of electrical infrastructure are some of the reasons for the ongoing power failures in Diepsloot. Based on the information we’ve gathered from Eskom and the ward councillor, they are doing what they can to resolve the issues, but can only do so with cooperation from the community.

By Katlego Jonathan Pule
Covid in the kasi - thoughts from our audience

Covid in the Kasi – Thoughts from Our Audience

COVID IN THE KASI – LOCKDOWN DAY 97

We don’t mean to toot our own horn but it’s always great to get feedback on the content we’re sharing. Sloot FM presenter, Gerald Ngobeni, motivational speakers, Ntokozo Radebe and Mpho Mamabolo, and artist, Patrick Simelane have been following the Covid in the Kasi campaign and are early birds to all our posts. They have been kind enough to tell us what they think of the campaign and what content they’d like to see.

“We no longer have to search too far for news about what is happening in the community. Covid in the Kasi keeps young people, who are constantly on social media, in the know about what’s going on and those who are making a difference in our community”, says Gerald. “I would like to see content that helps the youth find employment and young people grow their companies.”

“A lot of people have been getting updates on our radio station but we are humbled to see people still managing to access to stories about their township, considering the circumstances”, he adds. “I would love to see this campaign continue even after Covid-19”

Patrick would like to see more local artists featured. “Who knows, maybe one of your posts about artists could be seen by famous artists who are willing to assist”, he says. “This campaign deserves worldwide recognition. It is rare to see people going to so much trouble in precarious times like these to keep their community updated.”

It is wonderful to hear that people are finding our content useful. We will continue to strive to keep the Diepsloot community informed and to tell your stories. Keep the feedback coming! we’d love to hear from more of you.

By Tshepiso Makgato
spinach bed in Diepsloot

Covid in the Kasi – Growing Spinach to Boost the Immune System

Who knew that there were so many vitamins and minerals contained in a 100g serving of spinach!? Imagine having such a nutrient bomb as a side dish to boost one’s immune system… As Hippocrates said, “let thy food be thy medicine”

“In Diepsloot, we are fortunate to have fertile soil. The soil in Ext 12 and 13 is very rich because it was once a farm”, says Solly who has worked for many years in agriculture. He tells me stories about how wild strawberries once used to grow in every direction… How a dam overflowed with trout… How crime was just a word.

I can’t even imagine Diepsloot looking so lush and green and safe… the same Diepsloot that, from a bird’s eye view, looks like a wasteland for car scraps.

New growth of spinach peeks through the soil in Solly’s kasi garden. As I stood there, admiring the fruits of his labour, it occurred to me that a lot of hunger could have been avoided during the Covid-19 lockdown if everyone grew their own food… imagine how different Diepsloot would look then!

There is not a lot of space in the kasi for gardens, but a lot can be grown in a small space if one is determined. In the limited space he has, Solly has chosen to grow spinach, not just because it’s nutrient-rich, but also because it grows quickly and can be used in many different dishes.

Bra Solly reminds me of Popeye the sailor man and his insatiable desire for spinach…
I think I might try planting some too when I get home.

 

By Lawrence Matshidiso 
Diepsloot Learner Transport

Covid in the Kasi – Learner Transport Industry Struggles, Despite Schools Reopening

In Diepsloot and other townships, learner transport is a huge asset to the community. Moloto Mum’s Transport has been operating for 13 years,and has been badly affected by the lockdown. Even though schools have reopened, the school transport industry still faces many challenges.

“The level 3 rules are that we can only transport 7 children per trip. Already, our numbers will be low since it is only matrics and grade 7 learners who are returning to school” says Mrs Moloto. “This will be a huge financial downfall for me. I will barely be able to cover fuel costs.”

The transport association has played a very important role in the safety of children, who get picked up and dropped off at their houses. Have the authorities taken this into consideration?

“Since Most of the parents are not receiving an income, I’ve tried to be very lenient. I understand their situation, as I am in the same situation myself. Some of them are only paying half or a quarter of my fee.”

“On behalf of the Diepsloot Learner Transport Association, I appeal to the government to increase the number of learners we are allowed to transport. I will personally provide masks for the learners using my transport service and ensure the precautions are observed. We also need assistance with sanitisers.”

ECD Principal feeding children and parents in Diepsloot

Covid in the Kasi – ECD Principal Cooks Porridge for the Community

“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands – one for helping yourself, the other for helping others” ~ Audrey Hepburn

On the 18th of March 2020, when it was recommended that Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres close, the Headmaster of Vhukhudo ECD Centre started cooking porridge as a way of giving back to the community.

After seeing photos posted on social media by her daughter, an anonymous sponsor offered to help. The sponsorship helped her include bread, rice and soup, which she offered to community members on a daily basis.

“Acts of kindness can never be done too soon, for you never know when it will be too late”, says Nancy. “When the sponsorship ended, I took money from my own pockets. I couldn’t watch people in my community go hungry”.

“I am very sad to see the government not taking any action against the poverty issue in Diepsloot. It is not only happening in our township, but around the world. Seeing this breaks my heart. I wish the government would take strong action against the unhygienic state as well as lack of nutrition in Diepsloot.”

There are many people, like Nancy, who are trying to make a difference in their communities. Let’s all do what we can to support them.

by Tshepiso Makgato
Diepsloot kids on their way to school

Covid in the Kasi – Are Diepsloot Schools Ready for Students to Return?

There has been much controversy and apprehension around the government’s announcement that some learners would be allowed to return to school on the 1st of June, and the subsequent delay of the reopening of schools. How do Diepsloot residents feel?

The #CovidintheKasi citizen journalists have managed to get the scoop from two perspectives. They interviewed a matric learner and a School Governing Body representative of Diepsloot Primary 4.

Lockdown alert level 3 allows for more economic activity to be resumed, the reopening of schools to final year learners and 33% of higher education students. What does safety look like in the eyes of the students and teachers.

The Department of Basic Education has delayed the reopening of the country’s schools by a week in order to prepare for the return of learners. It’s been announced that schools will open for all Grade 7 and 12 learners on Monday, 8 June 2020. Other grades will only be returning later in the following months. However, in schools that are based in townships like Diepsloot, where living conditions are difficult and commuting to school is a safety hazard, who is ensuring that learners are safe outside and inside the gates of the school?

I met with Akim Zulu, a School Governing Body (SGB) representative of Diepsloot Primary 4. He provided insight into what safety measures have been put in place as the school prepares to welcome back grade 7 learners.

Lerato: Mr Akim, as parents and learners are very concerned about the measures being taken to ensure learners come back to a clean and safe environment, what has the school and the Department of Education done thus far to ensure that schools are ready for the return of students?

Akim Zulu: What we have done is sanitised all the necessary equipment in classrooms and disinfected tables, chairs, windows etc. The Department of Education has provided Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – masks, gloves and sanitisers.

Lerato: How will social distancing measures be implemented in the classrooms?

Akim Zulu: We have reduced the amount of learners per class. Usually there’s 40 learners per class, which has now been decreased to 20. Even though only grade 7 learners will be returning, the school’s entire staff will be present so that there are enough teachers to teach the increased number of classes.

Lerato: Who will be assisting with the screenings that need to be done daily and how frequently will screening take place?

Akim Zulu: Four youth Covid brigades will be deployed by the Department of Health to assist with the screening tests. Screenings will be done 3 times a day – in the morning when learners enter the school, after the lunch break and again before learners exit school premises. This is to ensure that we record their body temperatures regularly, so that if anything arises we can take quick action.

Lerato: What happens when you find that a learner’s temperature is too high? Does it mean the learner needs to be placed in isolation, and is the school prepared for such?

Akim Zulu: As we will have more classrooms at our disposal, there will be isolation rooms set up. We are aware that perhaps some students might have slightly higher temperatures might be as they’ve just come out of a car/ taxi which will obviously affect their temperature. In this case, learners will be placed in isolation for a good 30 minutes, to see if their temperatures decrease. If not, they will be kept in isolation until we are advised what further steps to take by the Department of Health.

Lerato: The teachers’ union has been in court arguing against the ruling of schools reopening. How do most teachers feel about returning to school? Does the school find itself short of staff?

Akim Zulu: Thankfully we find all our teachers willing to return to school, and with teachers from all grades required to come to school in order to assist the other teachers in filling the necessary gaps, it’s safe to say all staff will be present when we reopen!

Lerato: Will school hours be the same as usual or will they be extended in order for learners catch up on missed schoolwork?

Akim Zulu: School hours won’t be extended as we have been active on the online learning platform during the lockdown. Teachers have been sending students worksheets to complete via WhatsApp, so learners are up to date with their work.

It’s astounding to see the effort teachers and fellow parent representatives have put into ensuring that learners in critical years can resume their studies, steadfast through the Covid19 crisis! As streets and transportation routes see an influx of millions on their return to work and school, the rate of infection is largely dependent on how society adheres to distancing and hygiene rules.

Let’s put our faith in ourselves and our compatriots!

by Lerato J. Molefe
grade 12 learners at LEAP school

Covid in the Kasi – Grade 12 learner anxious to return to school

There has been much controversy and apprehension around the government’s announcement that some learners would be allowed to return to school on the 1st of June, and the subsequent delay of the reopening of schools. How do Diepsloot residents feel?

The #CovidintheKasi citizen journalists have managed to get the scoop from two perspectives. They interviewed a matric learner and a School Governing Body representative of Diepsloot Primary 4.

Wendy, a grade 12 learner at Leap Maths And Science School 4, says she has been badly affected by the closure of schools under the lockdown. She finds self-study very challenging, and is anxious to return to school.

At home, she can access her study material from her phone but the lack of time pressure makes it difficult for her to stay motivated. “Online learning has been very ineffective for me. There’s no teacher to help me when I don’t understand something”, she says.

“I’m worried that the re-opening of schools might be further postponed, as empty promises were made about schools reopening this week. Our futures are at stake.”

by Tshepiso Makgato
Diepsloot residents excited to return to church

How Diepslootians Feel About Returning to Places of Worship

COVID IN THE KASI – LOCKDOWN DAY 64

Places of worship have been closed since the beginning of the nationwide lockdown. President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that they may reopen from the first of June, when lockdown level 3 begins.

In Diepsloot, the feelings about this are mixed. While some believe it is still too risky, especially at a time when the infection rate is increasing daily, there are those who look forward to returning to their places of worship.

“I think it’s good that the President has realized how important it is to have people of faith come together and pray not only for themselves but for the country to overcome this pandemic. I’m very happy that we are allowed to go back to church and worship!”, says Mr. Gumede*, praying outside the gates of the church before going to work.

For places of worship that choose to reopen, there are strict regulations. There may be no more than 50 people per service and everyone must wear a face mask. A two metre physical distance must be allowed for between worshippers.

“Before the lockdown was announced we were already practicing social distancing. When we arrived at church, we would be counted and have our hands sanitised. If the church was already occupied by 50 people, the rest would wait outside until the next service began… So this won’t be anything new to us. We have done it before and we were following the rules”, he continues.

This church seems to be compliant, but we can’t assume that all places of worship will be the same. The question is, how will places of worship be monitored to ensure that the health and safety of worshippers is taken seriously?

*not his real name

By Lerato J. Molefe
Covid in the Kasi: locked down with no electricity

Locked Down With No Electricity

COVID IN THE KASI – LOCKDOWN DAY 61

Diepsloot Extension 3 residents have been locked down with no electricity for over 2 weeks. Observing lockdown in the township is challenging enough under normal circumstances. Not having electricity makes it even harder.

“I’ve been working from home and the whole electricity issue makes life very difficult. I have to walk to another station to charge my equipment in order to complete my work. It’s been 15 days and no action has been taken”, says one disgruntled resident.

It is also a huge challenge for students who are studying online. This issue is not unique to Diepsloot as a number of townships around the country have found themselves in the same situation.

According to Eskom, the power cuts are the result of illegal electricity connections in the area. There is a failed mini sub that will only be replaced once 90% of the residents have paid their fines or entered into an agreement to pay”, said an Eskom official. “We advise stand owners to send their details to the ward councillor as soon as possible.”

Now, the whole community will suffer for the crimes of their fellow residents.

by Tshepiso Makgato
Covid in the Kasi citizen journalist, Peter Ngobeni

Covid in the Kasi – Behind the Scenes: Peter Ngobeni

My name is Peter Ngobeni. I am a dance coordinator, MC and the creative director of Caphas Creative Solutions. We specialise in communicating brand messages to LSM (SAARF Living Standards Measure) 1-5. Our goal is to increase brand engagement for our clients.

Lockdown has negatively affected my business, as most of our income comes from events. However, to stay afloat during the lockdown, I have started using my design skills to help small township businesses with branding, logos and business cards. I have noticed that some people have gained the desire to start their own businesses during this lockdown, so I assist them with CIPC business registration. I also help operating businesses apply for permits and, finally, I am part of the creative team that has been providing content for the Covid in the Kasi campaign.

The biggest challenge I am facing with running my business is having access to creative spaces in the township like theatres and dance studios for dance crews to rehearse. Finding professional, reliable partners to work with on big projects is also a challenge, which makes the up-scaling of my business a distant dream.

Further, not having access to the free Wi-Fi and a working space at Father Louis Blondel Centre has made running my business a challenge. Data rates are high- which makes it impossible to work from home for long periods of time.

Working on the Covid in the Kasi campaign has been the highlight of my lockdown experience thus far because through the campaign we have been able to create content that impacts people’s lives positively. It has given us a preview of what we can achieve through online platforms as township content creators. Before this campaign, I didn’t think of myself as journalist but I am loving the journey.