The Democratic Alliance is against certain municipalities over Eskom’s unpaid bills, but this time, the party blames mayors for caring less about power crisis in their municipalities.
The party particularly blamed the ANC-run town of Mantsopa for treating their mayor to a R500k Mercedes at the expense of the people’s welfare, especially in the case concerning Eskom’s unpaid bills.
According to DA’s Tania Halse, the ANC’s mayor of Mantsope — a town of just 54 000 people splashed out on a “swanky new Mercedes to the value of around R500 000 while the people narrowly avoided having its power cut for owing Eskom money.
The municipality defaulted on paying its power bill of R92 million to the state’s power utility, Eskom.
“At a time when Eskom is threatening to cut electricity supply to Mantsopa due to non-payment of R92 million‚ the Mayor should be focused on saving every possible cent to spend on service delivery. A new Mercedes Benz is simply unacceptable,” Halse said on Sunday.
“The DA appeals to Mayor Tsoene to do the right thing and cancel the purchase of the vehicle. It is time to put the people first‚ and not the ANC’s own personal interests.”
Eskom has announced its intention to start of power cuts to some municipalities after the High Court in Pretoria gave it a green light to cut power supply to eight municipalities, as it tries to recover billions of rand in debt.
Organisations such as Afriforum and AfriBusiness filled a case against the power utility which was dismissed in the North Gauteng High Court at the end of last week.
Some of the affected municipalities have begun to experience power cuts as the power utility maintained that it was going to cut off power to seven municipalities if they are unable to repay their outstanding debt.
In a statement, Eskom said that Judge Hans Fabricius who presided over the case emphasized that it was “necessary to appreciate the context in which Eskom operates in the national economy, seen against the background of its Constitutional rights and obligations”. He also highlighted that “the duties of municipalities to honour their obligations to Eskom are important in the present context”.
However, members from the South African Local Government Association (Salga) said that cutting off power to municipalities was the wrong way to solve the problem.
“We do not think that cutting electricity off to the municipalities or stopping the supply is the right way to go,” Mohammed Logart told reporters.
Eskom, however, reported that the outstanding amount had risen to R10,2 billion, which grew over the past eight months from R6 billion.
“In the last five years, the overdue debt has increased tenfold with the March 2017 forecast being in excess of R12 billion,” Eskom said.
The DA said its deeply concerned that millions of people across South Africa will be left without the electricity needed for important services, such as health care. Power cuts will also destroy local economies and result in job losses.
The party criticized Eskom for playing around providing little details on its plans, including the criteria it uses for determining when a municipality will be shut-down, how much time they will be given to pay-back, and how generous they will be with their reprieve.
This, according to the DA, will only result in further uncertainty – a disastrous consequence for the local economy.