Hope to avert blackout

2016-02-10 06:00
JOB TSHABALALA, a member of the mayoral committee (MMC) for finance in the Dihlabeng Local Municipality, urges the community to pay their services so that the Eskom account can be settled. Photo: Tladi Moloi

JOB TSHABALALA, a member of the mayoral committee (MMC) for finance in the Dihlabeng Local Municipality, urges the community to pay their services so that the Eskom account can be settled. Photo: Tladi Moloi

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BETHLEHEM. – The Dihlabeng Local Municipality is adamant that they will not face a blackout, despite a recent warning by Eskom that they will cut off electricity by 30 March.

Job Tshabalala, a member of the mayoral committee (MMC) for finance in Dihlabeng, told Express Eastern Free State that they remain confident that Eskom will not cut their power supply.

“We will make sure that we provide them with anything that they need to avoid that. We have submitted our draft financial recovery plan to Eskom and we are awaiting their comments,” said Tshabalala.

The local municipality appears on a list of eight municipalities in the Free State that owe Eskom almost R842 million.

Eskom recently announced that if Free State municipalities do not settle their debts or make sustainable payment arrangements with Eskom, they will soon face blackouts.

According to Tshabalala, Dihlabeng currently owes Eskom a total of R57 million.

He said they have had a meeting in which they reached an agreement to review a payment plan.

“Yes, we experienced cash flow problems in the past months and that resulted in us not servicing the account as per our agreement. However, we believe that we could settle that debt should Eskom give us a three years payment plan,” he said.

A concerned Tshabalala pointed out that they would need at least R1 million for Eskom every month.

“We can’t afford that every month. You should remember that we still have an Eskom account that we are servicing every month and if we combine the two, we will need R1 million per month just for Eskom. We are concerned about that, because we don’t want to be faced with the situation where our people are living without electricity,” he said.

The municipalities in debt include those of Nketoana, Masilonyana, Tokologo, Manstopa, Ngwathe, Nala and Phumelela.

Tshabalala has requested members of the public to pay their services.

“He added that those who were not paying the services were the main reasons why they were facing the Eskom problem.

“We are doing everything in our power to help our people to pay services. We even went as far as giving a 50% discount late last year. We only managed to collect R4,5 million of the R500 million for services that is owed by the community,” he said.

The senior manager of customer services in the province, Bibi Bedir, told News24 that they expected the current debt to be settled in full and would negotiate payment arrangements for outstanding debts with individual municipalities.

Meanwhile, DA MPL James Letuka said it was worrying that the province continues to find itself under threat of having hundreds of people’s electricity supply suspended.

“It is evident that the provincial government and Free State municipalities have been unsuccessful in adhering to payment plans or in finding an amicable solution with Eskom. The impact on people’s lives would be devastating and local economies would be dealt a deathblow, resulting in closures of small businesses and job losses the province can ill afford,” he added.

Last year, the power utility also served notices to municipalities in the province that owed almost R2 billion.

  • In April last year, Eskom sent out notices to towns, informing communities that it plans on implementing extra load shedding or cutting electricity supply from 5 June 2015. Additional information by News24.

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