Province power issue to be probed

2010-07-09 15:18

The Public Protector is investigating the case of 11 Free State

municipalities in danger of having their power cut due to unpaid Eskom bills.

Spokesperson Kgalalelo Masibi said: “I confirm that a request for

the Public Protector to investigate Eskom’s reported notices to disconnect

electricity to several municipalities in the Free State was received. The Public

Protector has launched a preliminary investigation to clarify the

complaint.”

She said the complaint was received on Wednesday from Democratic

Alliance MP David Ross.

Subsequently, “among other things“, a meeting with Eskom had been

scheduled to “gather the necessary information”.

Comment from Eskom today was not immediately available.

On Thursday, Eskom said that 200 municipalities throughout the

country were in arrears. Of these, 93 were in the Free State.

Eskom spokesperson Andrew Etzinger said only 11 Free State

municipalities were in danger of being disconnected.

The electricity parastatal on Wednesday notified these

municipalities, which represent more than 50 towns, of its intention to cut

their power if they failed to settle outstanding accounts before July 20.

Yesterday Ross said that according to a parliamentary reply, the

total amount owed to Eskom by municipalities and metros across the country was

R162.8 million.

About R109.3 million was owed by municipalities which had been

served with notice of possible disconnection. The Free State municipalities in

arrears are: Mangaung (Bloemfontein, Botshabelo), Ngwathe (Parys, Heilbron),

Moqhaka (Kroonstad, Viljoenskroon), Matjhabeng (Welkom, Odendaalsrus),

Masilonyana (Brandfort, Winburg), Mafube (Frankfort, Villiers), Nala

(Bothaville, Wesselsbron), Dihlabeng (Bethlehem, Fouriesburg), Kopanong

(Bethulie, Phillipolis, Gariep), Mohokare (Zastron, Smithfield, Rouxville), and

Naledi (De Wetsdorp, Wepener).

Today, the National Consumer Forum (NCF) said consumers should not

pay for the municipalities’ mistake. NCF chairperson Thami Bolani said: “Eskom

has no right to cut electricity to innocent consumers when it is the

municipalities that are at fault. They are effectively punishing consumers for

the mistakes of local government.”

Bolani said consumers did not have direct control over the

municipal officials responsible for the problem. and that negotiations between

Eskom and municipalities was the only way forward.

He said: “If this did not work, then the matter needs to be taken

to national government, where the Department of Co-operative Governance and

Traditional Affairs would have jurisdiction.”

 

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