Six towns may be left in darkness

2018-03-26 13:30
Municipalities owe Eskom R300 million.

Municipalities owe Eskom R300 million. (File)

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Six KZN towns could be plunged into darkness as Eskom debt spirals out of control and they face being cut off.

Collectively they owe the power utility about R300 million. One of the towns, Mooi River, has to come up with R7 million by April 4 to keep the lights on.

Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) local government acting chief director, Sicelo Duma, said the six municipalities were defaulting on payment arrangements they had with Eskom.

Duma blamed the escalating debt on poor budgeting by the municipalities and deficiencies in controlling electricity loses.

Duma said that the municipalities at risk were:

• Newcastle, which had an overdue amount of R74 million and had a five-month payment plan;

• Mooi-Mpofana, which had an overdue amount of R70 million and had agreed on a 36-month payment plan with Eskom;

• Ulundi, which had an overdue amount of R76,8 million and had entered a 36-month payment agreement with Eskom;

• Abaqulusi, which had an overdue amount of R27,5 million and had developed a three-month payment plan;

• Inkosi Langalibalele, which had an overdue amount of R8 million and had agreed on a three-month payment plan,

• Edumbe, which had an overdue amount of R6,2 million and had made a six-month payment plan.

Duma said: “Each of these municipalities has established a debt steering committee which prioritises the payment of creditors and assists the municipality with debt collection. Cogta regularly attends and provides technical support at these steering committees,” he said.

Two of the six municipalities owing Eskom, Mooi-Mpofana and Estcourt’s Inkosi Langalibalele, were recently put under administration.

Mooi-Mpofana mayor Xolani Duma said Mooi River could be plunged into darkness if the municipality failed to pay R7 million towards its debt by April 4.

“We are doing everything we can to meet the payment deadline. We have introduced cost-cutting measures to help save money. It is not easy for us because we are a small municipality and our equitable share allocation from National Treasury is very small.

“The big problem is that there is high unemployment in the area and many people cannot afford to pay for [services]. Government departments and farmers are also owing us while we also face the problem of electricity theft,” he said.

Inkosi Langalibalele mayor Jabulile Mbhele said the municipality was doing all it could to cut down the debt.

“Our challenges have been people who do not pay for services and illegal connections. We have started with disconnections to push them to pay. Sometimes the problem is that although we do pay Eskom every month, our payments come late and we get charged interest for late payment and that makes things worse,” she said.

Mbhele said Eskom charges were a bit high and said the municipality fails to contain the debt in winter where there is high usage.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  eskom

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