Not far from the city hall where the president was delivering the state of the nation address, residents, community organisations and NGOs held a protest calling for an end to loadshedding. Under the banner of Electricity Action Campaign, the groups held a speak-out as they were not allowed to march to the city hall.
Residents spoke about how loadshedding violates their right to health.
Thembeka Khuselo from RR section in Khayelitsha spoke about his son’s skin condition which requires that his clothes and the linen are ironed. “When there is loadshedding, I can’t iron his clothes and that worsens his condition. I also have asthma and when it’s dark I can’t see my pump. My son’s medication has to be refrigerated and when there is no electricity for four hours, his medication goes off, ” said Khuselo.
Lamla Ngcuka experiences the same frustration. Her son has a rare disease, cystinosis, and his medication must be kept cool and with loadshedding the medication expires. “Don’t be fooled by his body size, he is actually six years old,” she said.
Speaking to Elitsha, Nolutho Mxoli from Ndlovini said that she has to have money to buy paraffin so that she can cook for her family when there is loadshedding. “I spent R110 on a five-litre paraffin and I have to make sure that lasts for about a month, otherwise we won’t be able to do anything,” she said.
Belinda Diedricks, a resident at the Woodstock Hospital said that their working conditions have changed due to loadshedding as they work fewer hours and are not paid for the hours when there is loadshedding. “I am a textile worker at National Cap in Ndabeni. We now only get paid for four days a week because we have to sit at work for two hours a day when there is loadshedding and we don’t get paid for those hours. This is known as short time. We lose at least eigtht hours a week and sometimes ten hours. I spend almost R500 a week on transport for myself and my daughter and I get just over R1,000 a week,” she said.
Nadeema Petersen, a community activist from Mitchells Plain, bemoaned government’s mismanagement of its companies. “My gripe is that we have a state that is privatising public assets but whilst we have our eyes on the national government, we have a local government that has increased levies and tariffs. We are taxed double and all of them are capitalists because they are leeching off the plight of the poor,” she said.
Zackie Achmat from Unite Behind said that Eskom is broken and the state is not capable of providing solutions to the problems at the state-owned enterprise. “I wish we could fix Eskom but the truth is that it is so broken, so destroyed. Today, we don’t have a state of the nation, we have a state of destruction. The state is destroyed, it isn’t capable, at this stage, of providing solutions to the struggle of working people and poor people”, said Achmat.
Some of the demands of the campaign revolve around ending corruption and holding those who are responsible to account and be imprisoned.