Lesufi blasted for plans to write off townships’ electricity debt

Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus) has lambasted Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi’s proposal to reprieve South African townships for their overdue water and electricity bills.

This follows a question-and-answer session held at the Gauteng legislature on Tuesday.

According to FF Plus national chairperson Anton Alberts, the party is not happy with the premier’s approach to the matter. Alberts suggested, in a statement released after the session, that the premier’s approach to this matter is not racially inclusive, as it sidelines white and elderly people.

“[On Tuesday] during a question-and-answer session in the Gauteng legislature … Lesufi indicated that he will have the overdue power and water bills in Soweto and other townships written off because those people are poor, but that poor white people, and particularly poor elderly white people, do not deserve to enjoy that benefit,” said Alberts.

His response was elicited by the FF Plus’ question of whether other areas, apart from townships, where poor and elderly people reside, can also expect to benefit from the debt-cancellation programme.

In response, Lesufi said he knows what is implied by the question, and that those people do not deserve to have any of their debt written off.

According to Alberts, the premier’s approach to the matter is racist and condemnable.

“The FF Plus considers Lesufi’s attitude to be fundamentally racist and condemns it with contempt. Since 1994, there has been a growing group of impoverished white people as a result of the ANC’s discriminatory practices, even though these people do not deserve to be punished for what happened in the past.”

Alberts also grumbled about Coloured and Indian communities, noting that they should not be expecting much from the government support. He said the two communities should brace themselves for an era of discrimination.

“During a briefing by the Gauteng legislature’s economic development committee, the department tabled an economic development plan which includes many black areas, but not Eldorado Park or Laudium.

“Coloured and Indian communities should possibly prepare themselves for a full-scale programme of discrimination by the Lesufi government,” said Alberts.

The disgruntled chair said it is unacceptable that black people are the only ones who benefit, while “minority communities” are overlooked. “This is, however, part of Lesufi’s election plan to canvass for black votes for the 2024 elections to prevent the ANC in Gauteng from imploding completely.”

Touching on the issue of the broad-based black economic empowerment, Alberts said the policy should be “abolished”, as it only benefits ANC cadres.

“Research conducted by Unisa on the income levels of families in Gauteng indicates that black people are by far the dominant group in the middle and upper middle class.

“Black families with an annual income exceeding R50 000 per year comprise 64.5% of all households. Even on the highest income level of R840 000 and more per year, black people comprise the dominant income group with 8,9%, compared to white people with 3.9%, coloureds with 0.1% and Indians with 0.1%.

“It is, furthermore, interesting to note that the highest income level of black households [8.9%] is not much bigger with the ANC’s social engineering in the form of affirmative action and black economic empowerment after nearly 30 years in power.

“It offers clear proof that the ANC’s so-called broad-based economic empowerment is in fact a very narrow form of empowerment, as it empowers only a small group of cadres, and it must be abolished.”

FF Plus plans to take action against Lesufi if he does not change his plans.

“It is not clear on what factual or legal grounds Lesufi wants to write off the bills of only black people in townships, unless there is some form of racism in his plan. Given the socioeconomic distribution of Gauteng’s demography, it seems that this discrimination is unconstitutional.

“The FF Plus will take the matter of discriminatory debt cancellation further through various actions. The FF Plus will create an online portal where minorities who also need debt cancellation can log their requests, which the party will then hand over to Lesufi.”

Alberts said the party will further approach the Human Rights Commission for an investigation into this matter.

“If he does not want to help that group of people, the party will request an investigation into the matter by the Human Rights Commission and consider making an application to the Equality Court.

“The FF Plus will, furthermore, strive to find economic solutions to create job opportunities in Gauteng to sustainably empower people, rather than cancelling debt, which the provincial and national governments cannot really afford to do,” said Alberts.

Lesufi’s plan for townships

The premier’s request and proposal to reprieve townships of their debts comes weeks after Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana presented his mid-term budget where he said the government will take over the debts of SA National Roads Agency Limited and Eskom.

In a tweet in October, Lesufi wrote to the minister asking him to consider Soweto’s debt to state-owned power utility Eskom, arguing that the scrapping of municipal debts will help reposition the township for purposes of growth.

“Our argument remains, if Eskom debt is taken over by the central government, what our people owe Eskom in townships, informal settlements and hostels must also be scrapped. We need to reposition our townships, informal settlements and hostels, so that they can be centres of growth.

“Our freedom will be meaningless if our townships, informal settlements and hostels remain the way they are. To start to develop our townships, informal settlements and hostels, we need to take bold steps that will make these areas the new economic growth points,” said Lesufi at the time.

Township transformation is a big part of Lesufi’s blueprint as Gauteng premier. He said, when he was officially ordained to his position, that he will prioritise the townships. However, the premier did not base his focus on racial concerns.

Speaking from his own experiences, Lesufi said townships have been neglected while other communities were being developed, vowing that the budget afforded his government will prioritise the townships.

In his government of “capable” leaders, Lesufi entrusted finance MEC Jacob Mamabolo to oversee the financial wellbeing of the townships. “His mandate is to establish a state bank to help revive the townships,” he stressed.


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