Brown tells Eskom to wait to month’s end

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS REPORT -

PUB­LIC En­ter­prises Min­is­ter Lynne Brown has in­structed Eskom to give de­fault­ing mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties un­til the end of the month to set­tle their out­stand­ing ar­rears be­fore in­ter­rupt­ing their power sup­ply. Sit­ting with pil­ing mu­nic­i­pal­ity debt on its books, Eskom has started in­ter­rupt­ing power sup­ply to var­i­ous mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in North West and the North­ern Cape. In a state­ment yes­ter­day, Brown said the power in­ter­rup­tions, which took place at dif­fer­ent times of the day, did not only im­pact on in­di­vid­ual ratepay­ers and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, but had po­ten­tially dis­as­trous ef­fects on busi­nesses and jobs. “One can­not help feel­ing sym­pa­thetic to those who pay their elec­tric­ity bills in good faith, only for the pay­ments to be con­sumed by mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties with pre­cious lit­tle in­come and re­sources. This is a mat­ter of na­tional im­por­tance that I would ur­gently hope to dis­cuss with the min­is­ter of fi­nance. In the mean­time, the amount of R10.2 bil­lion, which grows ex­po­nen­tially, has a po­ten­tial to un­der­mine the ster­ling ef­fort un­der­taken to re­store Eskom back to its sound fi­nan­cial foot­ing. The se­cu­rity of fu­ture rev­enue is paramount to Eskom’s sus­tain­abil­ity. It is crit­i­cal for all mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to in­sti­tute pre-paid billing to help build a pay­ment cul­ture,” said Brown. She said South Africa could not af­ford an Eskom “whose abil­ity to bor­row from fi­nan­cial mar­kets is con­strained by the pro­hib­i­tive in­ter­est rates aris­ing from the neg­a­tive fi­nan­cial po­si­tion which will re­sult if we don’t re­solve this mat­ter.” Eskom’s ac­tions fol­lowed a le­gal vic­tory ear­lier this month when the high court in Pre­to­ria ruled that Eskom could pro­ceed with the in­ter­rup­tions. “Eskom seeks to make any new pay­ment ar­range­ments or­ders of the court,” said Brown. – Siseko Njobeni

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