GO PREPAID OR GO DARK
ESKOM TELLS SOWETO:
Eskom is offering an interesting deal to residents of Soweto who owe the power utility billions of rands: agree to install a prepaid meter and use power sparingly and we’ll renegotiate your bill – otherwise we will cut you off.
This was said by the Gauteng general manager of Eskom, Bandile Jack, in an interview with City Press.
He admitted that Eskom had left the Soweto electricity bill to pile up for too long. The collective debt had reached a staggering R8 billion.
Jack said Eskom would approach residents who had outstanding bills to present its offer.
“We’re saying people should at least pay for the actual [current] consumption.
“At a later stage, we will definitely embark on a process of credit management with them,” he said.
“It is not like we’re targeting Soweto, but we’re tightening the screws to ensure that people pay for services. We’re going to switch off those who continue not paying, but we will give them bills, afford them some time to pay and, if they fail to do this, we’ll take action.”
Asked if the utility was considering scrapping some of the outstanding amounts if a customer agreed to the deal, Jack said it was a strong consideration.
“We’ll put customers on prepaid and monitor them. If they buy their electricity, manage their consumption well, don’t bridge the prepaid meter or do anything that is illegal, then we will look at that option. But it won’t be a blanket thing, as we’ll look at individual cases,” he said.
Although this will bring some relief for indebted Eskom customers in Soweto, there are people who are not ready to accept prepaid meters, saying they are making their electricity use more expensive.
Residents of Orlando West recently went on the rampage, demanding that Eskom remove the prepaid meters it had installed in their homes and implement a R400 monthly flat rate.
But Public Enterprises Minster Lynne Browne has rejected this, saying if Soweto were given a flat rate, all other townships countrywide would demand one.
Asked if Eskom would ever get to a point of attaching people’s homes to recover outstanding debts, Jack said: “It depends. If you don’t pay, we will get to a point where we do certain things. But we don’t want it to go there.”
Jack said Eskom would embark on an education campaign to teach communities about the benefits of prepaid meters.
“We will soon go back and engage communities and make them understand the benefits of us upgrading the network and putting in prepaid meters,” he said.
“Thereafter, we will go ahead, install prepaid meters and embark on our credit-management processes, and we will cut off those people who are not paying their bills,” said Jack.