GO PRE­PAID OR GO DARK

ESKOM TELLS SOWETO:

CityPress - - Front Page - POLOKO TAU poloko.tau@city­press.co.za

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.

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