State’s power utility, Eskom says it would disconnect power supply to two municipalities in Mpumalanga that are yet to settle their debts.
The two municipalities which include eMalahleni and Msukaligwa, will on Thursday, February 16, have their powers intercepted as they continue to struggle to pay up their bills. This interruption will affect areas including Doornpoort, Churchill, KwaGuqa, Witbank and Emerlo.
The power utility said “the interruption of supply as a result of non-payment remains an agonising decision for the company and is a means of last resort. We take solace in the fact that we spared no effort to collect outstanding debts amicably”.
“In spite of the fact that both the provisions of the Electricity Regulation Act 4 of 2006 and supply agreements with the municipalities empower the power utility to disconnect electricity completely, Eskom has opted for a softer approach of interrupting electricity during certain hours in the day.”
Hence, in order to avoid power cuts, municipalities in arrears need to forward agreed cash payments, a written undertaking in the form of a council resolution that the debt would be honored and a payment plan for the amount owing supported by a municipality.
The decision to cut power supply to defaulting municipalities comes after a long court battle between Eskom and a lobby group AfriForum on whether the power utility was right to punish residents and businesses for failing to pay up their bills.
The high court in Gauteng, however, granted Eskom the power to continue with its power cut so as to recover monies that would be used to upgrade the utility.
Municipalities in the Free State, Northern Cape, Mpumalanga, North West and the Eastern Cape are parts of the municipalities owing Eskom billions of rands.
Earlier this month, Eskom issued letters to seven Mpumalanga municipalities warning them to settle their bills by April, failing to do so the power utility will cut off the electricity supply.
The Municipalities in the province currently owe Eskom a combined R1.4 billion on electricity, and Eskom has threatened to cut off the electricity supply.
“The municipalities found themselves having an escalating debt due to interests on the arrears as well as on penalties, which suggested that they were incapable of selling electricity on behalf of Eskom.
“This is not working, municipalities in the province are not making any profit by selling electricity. People are stealing electricity and some are not paying at all, yet municipalities have to pay.
If municipalities wanted to continue distributing electricity, they needed to consider finding alternative methods of consuming electricity, as they were incapable of managing the Eskom account,” province’s Premier David Mabuza said.
While Eskom continues to issue warning letters to defaulting municipalities, the Mantsopa Local Municipality in the Free State has reportedly spent about R1.2 million on flowers in the 2015/2016 financial year even though the municipality is owing Eskom R98 million.
The cost of the flowers, which did not exist in the previous financial year, has prompted the Democratic Alliance to write to the council and its financial committee about the exorbitant amount spent on flowers.
Report has it that the municipality also bought a R531 274 Mercedes-Benz C200 for its mayor on October 25, 2016. While only R500 000 had been budgeted for the official car.
The news website reports that according to a mid-term report submitted to the council in January, the municipality owes Eskom R98 million. Mantsopa Local Municipality includes the towns of Excelsior, Hobhouse, Ladybrand, Thaba Patchoa and Tweespruit.