’’

That’s where the prob­lem started. He [the ad­min­is­tra­tor] could not pri­ori­tise the Eskom ac­count. He would pay ser­vice providers, pay other peo­ple and maybe a lit­tle bit to Eskom

CityPress - - Busi­ness and Ten­ders -

Amos Monareng, pres­i­dent of the eMalahleni Cham­ber of Busi­ness and In­dus­try, said the town’s econ­omy took a huge knock the last time Eskom im­posed power out­ages for two weeks in Fe­bru­ary, and warned that an­other se­ries of cuts would paral­yse busi­nesses. The cham­ber has 80 busi­ness mem­bers. eMalahleni is al­ready reel­ing from the Fe­bru­ary 2016 clo­sure of Evraz Highveld Steel and Vana­dium, which re­sulted in thou­sands of jobs be­ing lost.

This added to eMalahleni’s high un­em­ploy­ment rate. A Stats SA sur­vey, con­ducted in 2011, put the job­less fig­ure at 27.3% out of a pop­u­la­tion count of 395 466.

Eskom spokesper­son Khulu Phasiwe said eMalahleni mu­nic­i­pal­ity had reached a pay­ment ar­range­ment with the power util­ity.

A down-pay­ment had been made and un­less the mu­nic­i­pal­ity de­faulted, he said, the elec­tric­ity sup­ply would not be cut.

As a re­sult of the power sup­ply prob­lems in eMalahleni, more than 6 000 com­mu­nity mem­bers, in­clud­ing busi­nesses, are set to ap­proach the High Court for per­mis­sion to take over the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s rev­enue ac­count and set­tle the coun­cil’s most press­ing debt.

The group, which calls it­self eMalahleni Res­i­dents Against eMalahleni Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, es­tab­lished a pres­ence on Face­book four weeks ago.

Ear­lier this month, it or­gan­ised a com­mu­nity meet­ing at a lo­cal stadium, but of­fi­cials stopped the gath­er­ing, say­ing cor­rect pro­ce­dures in book­ing the venue were not fol­lowed.

A spokesper­son for Eskom said the group had ap­proached the power util­ity for a meet­ing, but it had not taken place.

“Eskom’s sup­ply li­cence, as granted by the Na­tional Elec­tric­ity Reg­u­la­tor of SA, pre­cludes it from sup­ply­ing cus­tomers and sup­ply­ing to ar­eas for which a lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­ity is li­censed to sup­ply,” said the spokesper­son.

The group was es­tab­lished by Boi­tumelo Madiba, a lo­cal res­i­dent. He told City Press that the town’s de­te­ri­o­rat­ing state was un­bear­able.

The trou­bled mu­nic­i­pal­ity, which has had three may­ors in the past four years, is be­ing run by Theo van Vu­uren, who was for­merly its ad­min­is­tra­tor.

It has an an­nual bud­get of more than R2 bil­lion and is al­legedly owed R2.5 bil­lion.

Nt­shal­intshali told City Press that the 6 000strong group of ac­tivists had ne­glected to for­mally ap­proach her of­fice or even at­tend com­mu­nity meet­ings.

“Most of the peo­ple there have never been to our meet­ings. They must come,” she said.

Madiba fin­gered Van Vu­uren, the mu­nic­i­pal man­ager, as be­ing the main prob­lem, as he was ini­tially brought in as the ad­min­is­tra­tor when the mu­nic­i­pal­ity was placed un­der Sec­tion 139 ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Mabuza re­sponded by say­ing that any­one with ev­i­dence of wrong­do­ing should ap­proach the po­lice.

Naritha Naidu, the DA’s cau­cus leader in Emalahleni, laid a charge of cor­rup­tion last year against Van Vu­uren, al­leg­ing fi­nan­cial mis­con­duct on his part.

RIS­ING DEBT

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s Eskom debt amounts to R454 mil­lion, but when in­ter­est and penal­ties are added, the fig­ure to­tals R1 bil­lion.

Nt­shal­intshali said the mu­nic­i­pal­ity had raised a num­ber of is­sues with the power util­ity, in­clud­ing the pay­ment terms and the amount of in­ter­est.

She said the Eskom debt had to­talled about R100 mil­lion in 2013, when the mu­nic­i­pal­ity was placed un­der ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“That is where the prob­lem started. He [the ad­min­is­tra­tor] could not pri­ori­tise the Eskom ac­count. He would pay ser­vice providers, pay other peo­ple and maybe a lit­tle bit to Eskom,” she said.

Com­pound­ing the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s mount­ing prob­lems is its state de­part­ment debts, which to­tal al­most R1 bil­lion.

“I have switched off [power sup­ply to] the court; to the de­part­ments of hu­mans set­tle­ments, land af­fairs, agri­cul­ture and health; and to schools and clin­ics. I have just threat­ened the hos­pi­tal,” said Nt­shal­intshali, adding

PHOTO: LESETJA MA­L­OPE

IN­DEBTED eMalahleni Lo­cal Mu­nic­i­pal­ity Mayor Lindiwe Nt­shal­intshali

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