The Newcastle municipality in KwaZulu-Natal will not have its electricity supply cut off – for now.
Eskom spokesperson Joyce Zingoni said on Tuesday: “The planned disconnection of bulk power supply to the Newcastle municipality has been suspended, pending an urgent high court application brought by the municipality against Eskom.”
The hotly-debated electricity supply issue in the developing KZN town will be heard in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Durban on Thursday.
“Eskom is yet to reach sustainable payment arrangements with the defaulting municipality,” Zingoni said.
She said the bulk power supplier had to collect outstanding money.
“Eskom is facing extensive challenges and it is a business imperative for it to be able to collect monies owed to it by its customers. Revenue collection will also go a long way to build a more sustainable future and drive the country’s economy.”
Speaking to News24, Newcastle municipality spokesperson Dumisani Thabethe said they were trying to get Eskom to understand that “processes” had to be followed.
“The challenge here is to get Eskom to understand we have processes to follow to present a foolproof payment plan.”
He said that “in the absence of engagements”, submitting a payment plan hastily could lead the municipality to continue to default.
“What we are hoping to achieve, is to strengthen inter-governmental relations with Eskom. We want to come up with this plan, which is affordable without any hiccups.”
Thabethe said they were engaging with the community and keeping them abreast of developments.
“They have a fear and they are not happy, which is natural.”
He said the municipality hoped the High Court would grant it leverage to engage further with Eskom.
“There is no point in saying we will pay if we are failing immediately the next day. We must involve the municipality executive and councillors. They don’t meet willy-nilly.”
Eskom has been threatening to turn off the town’s power supply due to a R200-million debt that has been accumulating for more than two years.
The power supplier – which faces its own massive challenges following years of corruption and looting in the billions – said the threat to cut electricity supply was part of its strategy to recover debt from defaulting municipalities.