If their technicians and the media team are a yardstick, it’s no surprise Eskom’s deep in the doo-doo.
It took them weeks to respond to a query about why the electricity to Phelisa Diniso’s house in Philippi East kept failing, leaving her in the dark and cold, with her new-born baby.
Despite repeated prompts and promises that they were investigating, they weren’t.
When the issue was finally resolved I received a two-line answer but they didn’t address the remarks allegedly made by one of their call centre agents about “black people living in ‘skwatta’ camps”.
I didn’t ask because like Home Affairs my query would have fallen into a big, black hole. Ms Diniso said the power outages began in 2016 after Eskom announced there would be no more load shedding.
“When my electricity failed I would report it to Eskom. All my neighbours, except me, had electricity, which is connected to the main supply on the pole. Each time I would get a new reference number but there was no follow-up.
“The agent said I should email customer service and ask to be moved to another pole. Which I did. But nothing happened although technicians went to the sub-station and the electricity supply would come on – for 10 minutes. I have spoken to numerous call centre agents, most of whom were unhelpful as was Eskom’s national spokesman, Khulu Phasiwe (my emails to him also went unanswered),” Ms Diniso said.
Lerato was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“She told me she would speak to her team leader, Gert, as she could see that I have been reporting the same problem so many times.
“She said Gert is aware of the matter but because I am black and staying in the skwatta camp it’s difficult to get a permanent solution because we (black people) are stealing the electricity. I should report the izinyoka, the people who steal electricity. I asked them to check my profile to see if I am stealing power from them before calling me names. It is not my duty to check who is stealing electricity,” Ms Diniso said.
“No one can give me any help and having a baby in the house I am forced to use candles and a paraffin stove which is a fire and health hazard. I hope you will find it in your heart to assist me.”
Easier said than done.
Although Eskom’s faceless media team responded immediately that they would investigate, they didn’t and they ignored my reminders. Until they got sick of my nagging and asked for a reference number and Ms Diniso’s contact details which were on the original email. Which meant they hadn’t read it.
Three weeks later Eskom replied: “Our team went out and we uprated the fuses, the customer should not be experiencing problems anymore. We found that the customers in Philippi have backyard dwellers and this adds to the load.”
But the Eskom team did not address Gert’s racist remarks.
Ms Diniso said four Eskom technicians arrived and told her if she wanted a permanent solution she would have to pay to be moved from the current electricity supply. They also told her she wasn’t allowed to have such a “big stove”.
But they couldn’t find anything wrong on the pre-paid meter.
The technicians apparently told her children she shouldn’t have reported the matter to the media.
“I am not sure what the technicians did because I have had no feedback from Eskom but since they were there I’ve had no power failure. I’m sure they replaced the fuses, they just wanted to blame the stove. Thank you very much. I always read your articles and it is amazing how you assist people. Keep up the good work and you will be blessed abundantly.”
A few days later Ms Diniso was back in the dark. But this time Eskom moved a lot quicker.
“Our technicians replaced the fuse holders to accommodate bigger fuses after verifying that the transformer can handle the additional load to the house. They promised to monitor the customer’s electricity supply on a weekly basis,” Eskom said.
Ms Diniso said she got a call from Eskom saying that technicians have been working to resolve the matter. “No one was at my house as they were busy on the pole, meaning that is where the fault is. I got another call asking if I have experienced any power outage and I said no.
“According to Eskom, I’m only supposed to have a two-plate stove without an oven. My neighbour has the same four-plate stove. They think because I’m black and living in a ‘skwatta camp’ I can’t afford a big stove, but the problem is the electricity, not the size of the appliance. They don’t give black people manuals that tell us what appliances we can use with the EDU boxes. Thank you again. Having Eskom call me is progress and I can communicate with technicians here instead of the call centre.”
As promised, Eskom called Ms Diniso to check if her electricity was still on.
MultiChoice said that from the letters I sent them, it appears that some customers did not update their postal or delivery address or some detail is incorrect in their address while others did not indicate they want a magazine (“Seniors finally find their guide to the stars”, Off My Trolley July 4/5).
“Our customers who are over 55 can email Help@dstv.com if they want a magazine,” MultiChoice said.