Eskom in steps to un­plug de­fault­ing mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties

Il­le­gal con­nec­tions blamed for eMalahleni’s R900m ar­rears

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - HEIDI GIOKOS @hei­di­giokos

OVER 350 000 peo­ple could have their elec­tric­ity in­ter­rupted if eMalahleni mu­nic­i­pal­ity does not pay R900mil­lion to Eskom in five days’ time. The de­fault­ing mu­nic­i­pal­ity in Mpumalanga is one out of the five that the power util­ity has de­cided to limit after bil­lions of rands on elec­tric bills re­main out­stand­ing.

While eMalahleni has less than a week to pay its just un­der half of its R2 billion bill be­fore the util­ity starts its in­ter­rup­tion plans, other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have al­ready seen in­ten­tional power cuts in the North­ern Cape and the North West.

Eskom an­nounced yes­ter­day that out of the 34 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties sched­uled for sup­ply in­ter­rup­tions dur­ing this month, it has re­ceived pay­ments and signed pay­ment plans with 21 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

Th­ese mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have had their sup­ply in­ter­rup­tions sus­pended.

Eskom in­terim chief ex­ec­u­tive Mat­shela Koko said: “We are im­mensely en­cour­aged by the kind of re­sponse we are wit­ness­ing presently and would like to thank all the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties that have made an ef­fort to pay their ac­counts, and com­mit­ted to their pay­ment agree­ments.

“Oth­ers have un­til to­mor­row to set­tle their debts.”

De­spite ef­forts by AfriFo­rum to pre­vent Eskom from in­ter­rupt­ing power sup­ply to mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, the North Gaut­eng High Court dis­missed their le­gal bid ear­lier this month.

“Eskom is locked be­tween a de­te­ri­o­rat­ing fi­nan­cial po­si­tion and run­ning afoul of the Pub­lic Fi­nance Man­age­ment Act. Rel­e­vant laws and stan­dards com­pel us to col­lect over­due debt and fail­ure to com­ply has dire con­se­quences for the en­tity,” Koko said.

Eskom said it would in­ter­rupt power sup­ply from 6am to 8am and 5pm to 7.30pm on week­days. It would also in­ter­rupt power sup­ply from 8.30am to 11am and 3pm to 5.30pm on week­ends.

“If Eskom can­not col­lect its debt, it es­sen­tially spells the death knell of Eskom, which will have a dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on the coun­try’s econ­omy,” said Koko.

Koko said the util­ity opted for a less in­va­sive method of col­lec­tion.

“It can­not be overem­pha­sised that rel­e­vant laws and agree­ments per­mit Eskom to ef­fect 100 per­cent elec­tric­ity dis­con­nec­tions upon non-pay­ment.

“But we did not ex­er­cise this op­tion,” Koko said.

A con­cern for the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties were mainly loss of elec­tric­ity at schools, hos­pi­tals and mor­tu­ar­ies if the pay­ment is not be made on time.

A few mor­tu­ar­ies in the town told The Star that power in­ter­rup­tions need to be min­i­mal as this could cause a ma­jor prob­lem should it per­sist.

Speak­ing to The Star, eMalahleni’s ex­ec­u­tive mayor Lindiwe Nt­shal­intshali said the rea­son why the mu­nic­i­pal­ity was in such bad debt was due to il­le­gal elec­tric­ity con­nec­tions in the in­for­mal set­tle­ments and res­i­dents fail­ing to pay their bills for years.

“We have a team out al­ready cut­ting all il­le­gal con­nec­tions. We are out there re­mov­ing all the il­le­gal con­nec­tions in the in­for­mal set­tle­ments.

“We are also cut­ting those who owe us money in all res­i­den­tial house­holds, gov­ern­ment de­part­ments and busi­nesses who have failed to pay us,” said Nt­shal­intshali.

She said since De­cem­ber the mu­nic­i­pal­ity paid R111m to Eskom.

“We are push­ing to pay them.

“What­ever money comes into the mu­nic­i­pal­ity we make sure we pay Eskom,” she said.

Nt­shal­intshali said res­i­dents can’t ex­pect ser­vices and not pay for them.

“In or­der for us to sur­vive, we need those who owe us to pay us.”

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity ad­mit­ted it failed to stick to its agree­ment it had with Eskom, which is why they are on the list for power in­ter­rup­tions.

The mayor is how­ever hop­ing that pay­ment will be made by Jan­uary 23.

She made it clear that the mu­nic­i­pal­ity re­fuses to take out grants to make pay­ments to Eskom.

“We can make the pay­ment and avoid in­ter­rup­tions in the town if peo­ple com­pile and pay what is due to us. If busi­ness, house­holds come to­gether and pay, it will make the process eas­ier for us all,” said Nt­shal­intshali.

The Dih­labeng and Masilonyana mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in the Free State Prov­ince de­faulted on its pay­ment to Eskom and as a re­sult will ex­pe­ri­ence twicedaily sup­ply in­ter­rup­tions of elec­tric­ity.

The two mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties had agreed to make the rel­e­vant cash pay­ment as ne­go­ti­ated with Eskom, a pay­ment plan for the ar­rears as sup­ported by a Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion and a writ­ten un­der­tak­ing in the form of a Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion that cur­rent ac­counts will be hon­oured go­ing for­ward.

How­ever, they al­legedly failed to keep their prom­ise.

IL­LE­GAL: Il­le­gal con­nec­tions are a ma­jor source of loss of rev­enue for mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties around the coun­try and Eskom.

CLAMP­ING DOWN: Eskom’s in­terim chief ex­ec­u­tive Mat­shela Koko dur­ing a me­dia brief­ing at Megawatt Park.

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