An 11th hour urgent application to the Durban High Court Sunday afternoon saved Newcastle from being plunged into darkness. Eskom had threatened to turn off the northern KZN town’s power supply today due to a R200 million debt. In an official notice, Eskom had warned, “After careful consideration of the impact of the growing municipal debt and failure of Newcastle Municipality to settle its overdue debt, Eskom has taken a decision to proceed with the contemplated interruption [of electricity]”.The massive debt has been growing for more than two years.A final decision on cutting Newcastle’s power will be made after the case is argued in the Durban High Court.The threat to cut the electricity supply is part of Eskom’s strategy to recover debt from defaulting municipalities. Last month, Eskom warned of looming power cuts when it issued a notice that read: “Newcastle Municipality’s breach of its payment obligation to Eskom undermines and places in jeopardy Eskom’s ability to continue the national supply of electricity on a financially sustainable basis. “In order to protect the national interest in the sustainability of electricity supply, it has become necessary for Eskom to exercise its right to disconnect the supply of electricity to the Newcastle Municipality.“Eskom recognises that the indefinite disconnection of electricity supply may cause undue hardship to consumers and members of the community, and may adversely affect delivery of other services. “In view of this, Eskom is contemplating a regulated interruption of electricity supply as opposed to an outright disconnection. “The contemplated regulation interruption will allow members of the community and consumers the opportunity to make alternative arrangements for the scheduled periods of interruption.”Eskom then issued a final notice last week.The KZN MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), Sipho Hlomuka, reacted by expressing concerns about the threat saying it came when the department, provincial treasury, and municipality, were engaged with Eskom about the matter.Hlomuka said the discussions were all focused on Newcastle’s debt to Eskom and repayment plans. “There are currently concrete proposals on the table, including a proposed payment plan to Eskom that is affordable and can be honoured by the municipality,” he said.He also directed senior officials to engage with the power utility in the best interest of the community of Newcastle.In July, the Mooi-Mpofana Municipality was granted an urgent interdict against Eskom barring it from disconnecting electricity in the area.Eskom had served the municipality with notice to disconnect its electricity by July 8 over a R123 million electricity bill which dates back to 2015.Meanwhile, the head of the African Development Bank said that Eskom is “too big to fail,” and the continent’s new free-trade deal will help Africa dodge the worst of a global economic downturn.Eskom, struggling under the weight of about R450 billion in debt, has been hurt by poor management, not lack of investment, according to Akinwumi Adesina, president of the AfDB. The keys to its revival include cutting costs, shifting to renewable energy and selecting a skilled chief executive officer, Adesina said.