A war of words has erupted between Eskom and the Mangaung Metropolitican Municipality, which includes Bloemfontein, over whether a notice to cut off daytime power from the start of December is valid.
This comes after the power utility earlier this week warned that it would have to cut off power to three Free State municipalities between 06:00 and 20:00 due to the the non-payment of electricity bills.
Eskom met with the municipality and electricity provider Centlec in Bloemfontein on Thursday. Despite denials by Mangaung, Eskom says the threat of daytime power cuts still hangs over the City of Roses.
On Thursday, in the wake of the meeting, the Mangaung metro, in a statement, said at the meeting it was agreed that Centlec does not owe Eskom anything and is servicing its current account. Eskom's earlier warning was "invalid" and there was no threat of electricity being shut off, said Qondile Khedama, the head of communications for the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality.
"The statement as issued by Eskom has potential of both fuelling unnecessary tension and scaring off potential investors. The stakeholders, including Eskom, agreed that the statement caused unnecessary panic and Eskom reassured the meeting that there will be an undertaking to communicate the misrepresentation of facts and address the unnecessary panic caused amongst residents of Mangaung and the business community," he said.
Eskom has denied much of what Mangaung included in its statement, calling if factually incorrect and misleading.
The power utility "categorically refuted" that Centlec does not owe anything on its current account, saying R148m has been overdue since November 16, and R21m is 90 days overdue.
The utility added that it "in no way regrets issuing the media statement", warning of potential power cuts. "Not informing the public of the potential action would have been irresponsible," it said.
It emphasised that its notice is still valid, and if no payment plan is worked out by the close of business on Friday, it intends to continue with plans to interrupt electricity from Tuesday, December 3.
Below are the areas that will be affected if the cuts go ahead: