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By Earl Coetzee

Digital Editor

Eskom’s municipal debt sheet tops R13bn

The threat of having their power supply cut is not encouraging municipalities to abide by payment agreements, Eskom says.

Eskom’s total outstanding municipal debt sheet stands at more than R13 billion and shows that the utility’s threats of disconnecting defaulters have had little impact.

Municipal debts to Eskom have increased from R9.57 billion at the end of January 2017 to R13.337 billion at the end of January 2018.

The biggest defaulters were the Free State’s Maluti-a-Phofung, Matjabeng, and Ngwathe municipalities, the Emalahleni municipality in Mpumalanga, and Gauteng’s Emfuleni municipality.

And, as in the past, the province with the highest outstanding municipal debt bills was the Free State, followed closely by Mpumalanga and North West.

In May 2017, Eskom successfully defended a court bid by AfriForum, which sought to prevent them from disconnecting defaulting municipalites’ electricity supply.

At the time, Eskom hoped that the threat of having their power supply cut would encourage municipalities to abide by payment agreements and discourage defaulting. This, however, does not appear to be the case, as the increase in debt attests.

Since February 21, the Tokologo municipality in the Free State has been experiencing scheduled power interruptions from 6am to 9am, and 5pm to 8.30pm daily.

Eskom spokesperson Dikatso Mothae said they are in constant negotiations to reach payment agreements with defaulting municipalities, but “unfortunately some do default on these, and we have to resume interruptions again”.

Residents in several defaulting municipalities last year proposed a plan where they could buy electricity directly from Eskom to avoid being disconnected when municipalities fail to pay over their electricity fees to the the power supplier.

Municipal regulations, however, do not permit this, since municipalities owe a large part of their revenue to their resale of electricity.

“We are committed to continue participating in the inter-ministerial task team to find a solution in the interest of Eskom, the country and the customers,” said Mothae.

– earlc@citizen.co.za

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