The ailing eMalahleni Local Municipality in Mpumalanga faces the prospect of another round of devasting electricity cuts in April, following the interruptions it suffered last month to its power supply. This comes after the provincial government this week blocked a R250 million land sale aimed at securing funding for the municipality to pay the more than R1 billion debt it owes Eskom.
eMalahleni Mayor Lindiwe Ntshalintshali said the municipality, which includes Witbank, was supposed to pay Eskom R277 million before the end of March, and the balance of the debt before the end of the year.
However, Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza met with the mayors of the municipalities owing Eskom this week and, despite the municipal council having pledged its approval of the sale of the land – amid protests from the DA and the Economic Freedom Fighters – the deal was canned, making way for more power cuts for the town that used to contribute almost 42% of the province’s GDP.
According to Zibonele Mncwango, spokesperson for Mabuza, the premier and Ntshalintshali agreed to halt their plan to redirect R65 million in social grants meant for the poor, as well as the R250 million from the land deal.
“The premier was not happy [to redirect [these funds], so they are no longer part of the plan,” Mncwango said.
He declined to say how eMalahleni municipality would pay its Eskom debt, but said details would be available at a later date.