Eskom to continue municipal power cuts
ESKOM yesterday ruled out ditching “blanket” interruptions to defaulting municipalities, even though some of the affected electricity users have been paying their bills.
This follows yesterday’s call by the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) for Eskom to reconsider its approach as it allegedly prejudiced paying customers.
Eskom spokesman Khulu Phasiwe yesterday said the defaulting municipalities owned distribution infrastructure “so it is not possible for us to isolate paying customers from the non-payers. We cannot dictate to the municipalities how they must treat their customers.
“In the areas where we do the distribution ourselves, we know exactly who is paying and who is not. We know that in a number of instances the municipalities have been paid by electricity users.”
Eskom sells electricity to a number of customers, including to municipalities, which distribute power to end users. About 180 municipalities are licensed to distribute electricity.
Eskom yesterday commenced with power interruptions to the defaulting municipalities. According to Phasiwe, the power utility yesterday morning interrupted power supply to the Ventersdorp and Naledi municipalities.
The interruption, from 6am to 8am, affected Ventersdorp, Tshing township, Appledraai, Buffelsvlei, Boikhutso, Toevlug, Doornkop, Vryburg and Stella. Phasiwe said yesterday’s power cuts affected approximately 90 000 customers.
Eskom said the municipalities dowe more than R10 billion, which grew over the past eight months from R6bn. In the last five years, the overdue debt has increased 10 times, with the March forecast being in excess of R12bn.
Eskom’s move has rattled businesses as the power cuts will affect their operations.
Sacci, whose members comprise 20 000 small, medium and large enterprises across various economic sectors, warned against “blanket” electricity cuts.
Sacci’s Alan Mukoki said yesterday that most electricity users had paid their bills to the municipalities. “It is unfair to penalise everyone because the municipality has not paid,” Mukoki said.
JSE-listed poultry producer Astral last week said the scheduled power interruptions would affect its feed and poultry operations in the Lekwa municipality in Mpumalanga. Astral chief executive Chris Schutte described the power interruptions as a catastrophe.
“A major part of Astral’s operations is the livestock business, thus any form of power cuts have a severe impact on the continuous supply chain of the integrated business, with dire consequences,” Schutte said.
Phasiwe said the utility planned to proceed with next Monday’s power interruptions to Lekwa, eMalahleni, Mkhondo, Mbombela, Msukaligwa and Chief Albert Luthuli municipalities in Mpumalanga.
Affected towns include Doornpoort, Kwaguqa, Witbank, Churchill, Piet Retief, Amsterdam, Mbombela Stadium/Ilanga Mall, Riverside/ Nelsrivier, White River, Nelspruit, Standerton, Ermelo, Carolina Town and Silobela.